Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Florida gubernatorial candidates on transportation

Election Day is only days away and voters are honing in on what candidates for elected offices have to say about key issues to them. Florida voters have a pretty good understanding of where the candidates stand on transportation issues, which include protecting road funds, port issues, and moving more goods by rail.

The Republican candidate is Rick Scott. The Democratic nominee is Alex Sink. Both candidates have addressed transportation issues, although Scott has provided fewer details.

Each candidate has shared concerns about the state’s transportation trust fund. The trust fund has warranted discussion on the campaign trail after the Legislature acted earlier this year voted to strip $160 million from transportation to help cover state budget deficits. Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the raid but apprehension remains that lawmakers could once again pursue the maneuver with a new governor in place.

Truckers and others who appreciate the need for transportation funding should like what they hear from the candidates on this issue.

The Florida Times-Union recently published excerpts from a letter Scott wrote addressing raids on road-building funds for other purposes.

“Transportation user fees should be used for what they were intended for when collected,” Scott wrote to the Florida Transportation Builders Association.

Sink is equally adamant in her opposition to raids on road funds. She criticized the “out-of-control Florida Legislature” for their effort to siphon funds. On her website, Sink promised that she would veto all future efforts to “raid this critical funding source and will ensure that these resources are invested in transportation projects.”

Another notable campaign pledge made by Sink addresses providing tax incentives for businesses to use rail.

She says that Florida’s nearly 3,000 miles of existing track “can be used to transport goods while conserving fuel and reducing heavy truck usage that stresses our highways.” As governor, she would be committed to “providing tax incentives to businesses that move more of their goods by rail as a percentage of a business’ total goods shipped.”

From time to time we see big railroads making pleas to government for what amounts to a handout to help them meet their strategic goals of forcing more freight into their captive hands. While it is important that transportation investments are made in their infrastructure, just like other private businesses, railroads should be accountable for the decisions made with their profits.

Perhaps Florida would be better served to allocate available transportation funds elsewhere until the railroads show they can make better decisions with the money they already get.