Rick Scott Looks to Build Ports and Political Points
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott has ports and politics this week as he tours Florida’s ports. Starting with an appearance at JaxPort on Wednesday, Scott plans to finish the week with events at Port Tampa Bay and Port Canaveral to talk about his plans to invest $1 billion in them over 8 years, including money already distributed during his term in office. During Scott’s term as governor, the state has backed ports -- which are preparing for the Panama Canal expansion -- with $700 million.
Speaking at JaxPort on Wednesday, Scott announced plans to continue to support Florida ports.
“While many states waited on Washington to help fund infrastructure needs, Florida never waited on the federal government to step in and help us be more competitive or successful,” Scott added. “In Florida, we have made investments in our seaports and expedited funding for major ports projects and I am proud we are committing to invest a total of $1 billion in Florida’s ports over our entire 8-year term in office.”
Scott’s plans include continuing support for port infrastructure even as ports across the Sunshine State ready for the Panama Canal expansion, including finishing the Miami deep dredge on schedule. Scott’s plan also calls for backing the Intermodal Logistics Center (ILC) support program, increased marketing and a renewed commitment to manufacturing.
Leaders from the First Coast gave the governor’s plans the thumbs-up. Last year, Scott backed improvements to Blount Island Terminal on the north side of the St. Johns River which will add 4,650 jobs to the First Coast and retain 12,000 current jobs.
“On behalf of JaxPort and the families in this community, I thank Gov. Scott for realizing the potential that Jacksonville and the state of Florida have to be global leaders in trade and logistics,” said Joe York, the chairman of the board of JaxPort, on Wednesday. “Throughout his term, Gov. Scott has made critical investments into JaxPort supporting thousands of jobs for local families. The $1 billion commitment over 8 years he announced today is solid proof of his commitment to further improve Florida’s economy and get more families and businesses back to work. I am proud to officially endorse Gov. Scott for re-election and I look forward to working with him in the future.”
Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, one of the leading ports advocates in the Legislature, also praised Scott’s proposal.
“Gov. Scott has remained true to his commitment by creating jobs and encouraging economic development through Florida’s seaports and international trade,” Ray said. “Since taking office, Gov. Scott has ensured the historic progress of improvements to our state’s infrastructure by investing in and expediting port projects. Gov. Scott’s direct influence is providing countless opportunities for Florida to become a leader in shipping and logistics throughout the United States and around the world. We risk losing our market share and job-creation opportunities without another 4 years of Gov. Scott’s leadership.”
But, with a tough battle for re-election looming, Scott also had politics on his mind as his team came out swinging at former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite holding three state offices as a Republican and joining his new party at the end of 2012. With a chart backing them up, Scott’s camp looked to contrast their boss’s record on trade with Crist’s.
“Under Charlie Crist, Florida lost 154,100 trade jobs,” the Scott campaign noted on Wednesday. “Under Rick Scott, Florida has gained 122,800 trade jobs.”
But Crist fired back, insisting he was instrumental in launching the Port of Miami Tunnel which will connect Miami International Airport and I-95 to Port Miami in South Florida. Scott attended an event earlier this week celebrating the completion of the tunnel.
"As we work to create even more jobs for the next generation, investing in our ports is key to our success," Scott said at the event. "Florida ports already generate more than 680,000 direct and indirect jobs and more than $96 billion in total economic value, and those opportunities are going to continue to multiply. We are here today to celebrate all of the opportunities the Port of Miami Tunnel will bring to the state.”
“Glad to see the completion of the Port of Miami Tunnel,” Crist fired back, adding he was “proud my administration was able to help take it from drawing board to construction!”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.