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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Governor Rick Scott took his first deep dive Tuesday into an $85 million jobs fund that lawmakers created last year.
Scott, during an appearance in Jacksonville, announced nine projects worth a combined $35 million that will be funded from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. Lawmakers created the fund last year after a battle about providing financial incentives to businesses.
Among the projects are $6 million for a 1.5-mile access road at Cecil Commerce Center in Jacksonville; $1.86 million for a workforce training program at Pensacola State College that includes aviation maintenance, nursing, transportation, advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity technology; and $8.245 million to expand access to the cruise and cargo terminals at Port Canaveral.
The Canaveral Port Authority is putting up $3.55 million for the work and said in an application that it would promote increased trade and tourism between Port Canaveral and cities such as Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami.
Jacksonville is putting up $2.2 million for the commerce-center project, which an application said is near Interstate 10, yet “landlocked and very difficult to access with a vehicle.”
The announcement of the projects came as Scott is asking lawmakers to provide another $85 million for the job-growth fund in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
“We have the money to be able to do this,” Scott said. “This year, we’re walking into this budget year with a projected $3 billion more in revenue than expenses.”
While some Democrats have criticized the jobs fund as a “slush fund,” the House and Senate have shown a willingness to match Scott’s request for $85 million in preliminary budgets.
The state Revenue Estimating Conference on Friday will analyze and revise general-revenue tax projections, which could play a large part in legislators negotiating a final budget for next fiscal year.
The jobs fund requires money to go to regional projects.
A month ago, Scott announced the first spending from the pool by approving $201,500 to help Manatee Technical College pay for workforce training programs in manufacturing.
The fund has received more than 200 applications, which collectively seek over $760 million from the state.
Scott said a key factor when reviewing proposals is the projected return on investment.
“These projects are going to bring new opportunities and to bring continued economic development all across our state,” Scott said.
Other projects approved on Tuesday:
— Liberty County, road work that includes construction of a turn lane on Highway 65 South at the intersection of U.S. Forest Service Road 103: $1.45 million.
— Suwannee County, water supply and fire protection to the Interstate 75 and County Road 136 interchange: $3.125 million.
— Columbia County, construction of the North Florida Mega Industrial Park Rail Project: $3.135 million.
— City of Alachua, construction of San Felasco Parkway and nearby utilities: $6.755 million.
— Port St. Lucie, roadway improvements in the Tradition Commerce Park: $3 million.
— Washington County, water and sewer work for a 1,525-acre Highway 79 Corridor Authority Project, a commercial and industrial district: $1.82 million.
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.