The day before President Obama’s arrival at PortMiami, Governor Rick Scott held a conference call with Florida Ports Council Chairman and Director of PortMiami Bill Johnson to discuss the state’s incredible investment in Florida ports and question whether the President’s port visit will come with a reimbursement to state taxpayers for paying the federal cost share of port projects so they would get moving more quickly and create more jobs for Floridians.
Governor Scott said, “We are certainly glad President Obama is coming to the PortMiami tomorrow, but he is late to the party on Florida port investment. In the last three years, state taxpayers have invested $425 million in our ports to take advantage of the benefits of trade with Central and South America, and to prepare our state for the expansion of the Panama Canal and the potential for increased trade with Asia. State taxpayers have stepped up time and time again to fund the federal share of projects in Miami and Jacksonville to support thousands of jobs. We want the President to step up to the plate in Miami tomorrow and reimburse our state millions of dollars that we can reinvest in our ports and support even more job creation.
“In 2011, we worked with the Legislature to invest $77 million in State Transportation Funds for the dredging project to deepen the PortMiami. That supplemented $35.5 million of existing funding – which is 75 percent of the total project cost of approximately $150 million. We could not wait for the federal government to come to the table with their share of this project. We expect the completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2015, and also needed to keep up with our growing export trade.
“When President Obama comes to the PortMiami tomorrow, we would like him to commit the federal government’s reimbursement of $75 million for this project. That reimbursement for state costs could then be reinvested in the State Transportation Fund and used for additional state port investments.
“Over in Jacksonville this January we also announced a $38 million investment for JAXPORT to correct a turning notch and navigation difficulties. This project will create a more navigable and safe route for major container ships and support an increase in cargo volumes to create an additional 3,500 port-related jobs. Again with this Jacksonville project, Florida could not wait on the federal government to come to the table so we advanced state funds to move the project forward. In JAXPORT, the state stands to receive a federal reimbursement of $36 million for this project. Once again, the state taxpayers stepped up when the federal government did not.”
Florida’s 15 ports are a major part of Florida’s economy. International trade moving through Florida seaports was valued at $82.7 billion in 2011 – up nearly 19 percent from 2010. Of this $82.7 billion in waterborne international trade, $39.9 billion were imports and $42.8 billion were exports. Florida ranked fourth among the nation’s top exporting states in 2011.
Governor Scott said, “These activities contribute $1.7 billion in state and local tax revenues. That is why we have made port investment one of the top economic priorities of our administration. We are making our ports stronger and creating even more jobs. Maritime cargo activities at Florida ports are responsible for generating more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs and $66 billion in total economic value.
“We know that capturing more import and export markets by investing in our ports could lead to the creation of 143,000 jobs and a $21.5 billion boost in business sales. Investing in Florida’s ports is critical to our continued economic growth. Florida is already growing by leaps and bounds over the last two years, despite the excessive taxing and spending continuing to come out of Washington. Our record is strong – more than 280,000 jobs created and our unemployment has had the second largest drop in the country.
“We did this while tightening the belt on state government and investing in state priorities that support job growth and education. We want Washington and the world to take notice. Smart economic policies work. They are working in Florida.”