Faced once again with less revenue to support the state’s general fund budget, Florida lawmakers are looking at taking money set aside for transportation projects for the second year in a row.
A House committee is proposing the diversion of $426 million from the Transportation Trust Fund for the fiscal 2011 budget. Last year, lawmakers drew $120.2 million from the TTF. With the budgetary process still under way, the fund raid is being opposed by two state-wide groups.
The nonprofit Florida TaxWatch research group noted that revenue directed to the TTF is already down $487 million, and $150 million that some lawmakers want to divert to the general fund would be recurring annually.
“With all the talk in the capitol about creating jobs, this very short-sighted measure would cost Florida thousands of jobs,” the group said.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce last week said the transportation fund could not afford to lose gas-tax dollars. With the state’s jobless rate at nearly 12%, the chamber urged its members to tell lawmakers the raid would “kill jobs.”
The Florida Department of Transportation is overseeing plans for a high-speed rail system for which it recently won $1.25 billion in federal stimulus funds. It’s not clear yet how the first leg will be financed or whether it depends on any funds from FDOT’s 2011 budget.
Versions of next year’s budget being considered in each chamber this week both propose spending more than the current $66.5 billion budget.
The House bill stands at $67.2 billion, while the Senate’s is $68.6 billion. Both versions are expected to clear committees this week to be voted on next week before going to a joint conference. The Legislature is in session until April 30.