Florida TaxWatch: Transportation infrastructure needs

Robert Weissert, executive vice president of Florida TaxWatch, said on “Pensacola Speaks” that the shortfall for the state’s transportation infrastructure needs is more than a $130 billion over the next 25 years.

He said the funding hasn’t kept pace with the rising costs of bridge and road construction. Also, the state has swept the Transportation Trust Fund to balance the state’s budget in past years.

“This is one of the most odious of the causes of our transportation gap is sweeping of the transportation trust fund,” said Weissert.

“It’s really problematic for two reasons. One, roads and transportation infrastructure is one of the most core functions of government. It’s one of the most basic things that we as a society collect taxes to do. We really shouldn’t be sweeping that money to fund other priorities.

Then, two, because we shouldn’t collect money for one reason and use it for another reason. We are in favor of flexibility at state budget. Budgeting is very difficult and the legislature needs to have flexibility to make those difficult decisions among competing priorities, but you shouldn’t say that you’re collecting money for one reason and spend it for another. If you tried to go to a bank and borrow money for one reason and spend it on something else, you can go to jail for that. You shouldn’t collect money for one reason and spend it on something else.”

He said that investing in transportation creates jobs.

“Transportation investment is one of the very few things government does that really creates jobs because that money flows directly into the economy in the form of people hired to build the roads, and they go out and they spend that money, and that money cycles through four or five times,” said Weissert. “We’ve found the return on investment is about five dollars for every one dollar spent in the short term.”

The investment also makes Florida more competitive with other states in attracting economic development and tourism.

“If trucks don’t have to wait in long lines when they come to Florida ports on Florida highways, or if people who come to visit one area of Florida can drive to another area without being stuck in hours upon hours of traffic and not moving on the highway,” he said. “The benefit, and just for quality of life to be able to know that you can get to and from work or to and from the grocery store and not be stuck in traffic and have safe roads that are well maintained and that are not too crowded. The benefits are extraordinary.”

Listen to the interview: