The budget cuts signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott are bound to be painful, but just how painful depends on the fate of billions in federal stimulus funds yet to be spent. The reason? Bureaucratic delays.
It's a dirty job, but Governor Scott wasn't afraid to take it on... Chiseling $150 million out of funding for road construction, wiping away tens-of-millions in college campus upgrades and putting critical cancer research efforts on hold.
The governor says all that money ought to take second place to public schools.
“By doing this, we are prioritizing our children and our grandchildren's education over special interests, paying as we go and living within a budget. Sounds logical, right?”
At a time when crews up and down the state are preparing to freshen up Florida's infrastructure, all that planning could be about to go to waste, or could it?
It turns out Tallahassee's sitting on more than four billion dollars, courtesy of Washington.
It's all federal stimulus money that hasn't been spent.
Take well over $500 million for highways, almost four times the amount Scott cut. $20 million remains to expand broadband access. Then there's almost $100 million for weatherizing homes and making rooftops more heat resistant.
That's where consumer advocate Brad Ashwell took us to explain why state agencies need to stop planning and get moving.
“The federal stimulus was meant to help Florida with its crumbling infrastructure in a myriad of ways and to help families and communities, and we really need those funds spent in a timely manner, as quickly as possible, really, more than ever, now that all these budget cuts were made by Governor Scott,” Ashwell said.
...A governor who, by the way, has made his opposition to the stimulus more than clear.
That may not be the reason the funding's being held up, but whatever the case, Scott's budget has all eyes looking to Washington's money.
The state Department of Transportation controls the biggest chunk of left over stimulus money. Officials there say they're still finalizing contracts for high-profile projects.