Florida Ports Council advocacy update – November 2019

The Florida Legislature will wrap up interim committee meetings for Regular Session 2020 during the week of December 9th. The Legislature held two interim committee weeks during the weeks of November 4th and November 12th. The committee discussions were relatively limited on issues, and it appears that leadership and members were delaying any substantial discussions until after the holidays. DeSantis released his initial budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2020/2021 on November 18th. As we have heard from FDOT, funds are limited, and the initial budget recommendation includes a smaller appropriation of funds for seaport projects and issues than in previous years. The budget includes $119.7 million for seaports (approximately $40 million less than last year) in the following specific line items:

  1. Line Item 1920 — $15 million for debt reserve payments (FPFC 1996 Bond Refinance).
  2. Line Item 1921 — $10 million for debt reserve payments (FPFC 1999 Bond Refinance).
  3. Line Item 1922 — $82,964,253 for the FSTED Program, SIS, GM, SPII and other FDOT allocations in FDOT 5-Year Work Program.
  4. Line Item 1923 — $10 million for the Seaport Investment Program/Bond debt reserve payments.
  5. Line Item 1925 — $71,633,516 for the FDOT Intermodal Development/Grants Program. This may or may not include some seaport projects.

Line item 1922 also includes the following recommended proviso language – “From the funds in Specific Appropriation 1922, $2,000,000 is provided to promote fuel optimization and resiliency during hurricanes and other natural disasters by enhancing the fuel distribution system infrastructure at state seaport fuel storage facilities.” At this time, it is unclear if we will experience similar issues with FDOT on the funding of this fuel optimization and resiliency program as we did with security funds during the current Fiscal Year, although we have received assurances from the Governor’s Office staff that FSTED funds will not be reduced to pay for the program.

The Governor’s Office also has not released any details on the Work Program with specific projects to date. We will provide you with any additional information as it becomes available. We expect some initial discussions on the Governor’s recommended budget during the December committee week (9th-13th), but it is unclear how much in-depth discussions they will have on budget areas like transportation. We will keep you informed of any discussions pertaining to seaport related issues.

The FPC will hold a Lobby Group meeting for Regular Session 2020 on Monday, December 9th at 2:00 p.m.

At the federal level, impeachment hearings in Congress have created struggles in passing funding legislation. Congress passed another Continuing Resolution (CR) after the previous resolution expired on November 21st. This current CR will run until December 20th. There is some fear that Congress will be unable to pass any funding legislation and will have to enact a year-long CR. The one area that has cause for some concern is defense funding – a year-long CR will not provide additional funding to items requested by the Defense Department. As you may recall, Congress passed a significant budget agreement in August that allowed for an increase in federal spending by $320 billion over two years and raised the debt ceiling. Failure to pass new funding legislation would render those increase agreements meaningless. We will continue to watch these negotiations and communicate our support for increased funding for Army Corps activities and other seaport related funding issues.

Staff continues to work with congressional staff and others concerning a tour of Florida seaports in February 2020. Preliminary dates are February 19th-21st at JaxPort and Port Canaveral during the President’s Day District Work period the week of February 17th. We will continue to work on this effort and provide additional information after the House and Senate formally set their calendars for 2020.