By Michael Maurino, Director of Government Relations, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce
Beckner presents the third County transportation plan: About five weeks until a planned April 6 vote on a countywide transportation referendum, Commissioner Kevin Beckner floated his own proposal this week. He joins Commissioner Sandy Murman as offering an alternative to the Go Hillsborough plan approved by Commissioners and Mayors in November. Beckner’s plan is most notable for the use of a 10-year half-cent sales tax, rather than 30 years. It also includes reallocating existing revenues, an increase in the gas tax, and mobility fees charged to new developments. The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn each noted that a 10-year window limits bonding ability, which would negatively impact large projects like rail transit.
USF making bid for No. 2: The University of Florida and Florida State University are designated by the Florida Legislature as “preeminent universities.” But, the Legislature is considering formalizing a second tier of “emerging preeminent universities,” which only the University of South Florida would currently qualify. UF is firmly established as the state’s flagship university, but USF is gaining ground on FSU.
Scott pushing for EFI as budget conference begins: Governor Rick Scott this week spoke with leaders in the State House to push for $250 million in funding for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm. The Senate has included the Governor’s request. His lobbying comes as the House and Senate prepare to start budget negotiations over the weekend.
Cuban embargo “could” end, but not under Obama: Speaking to attendees at a Washington breakfast, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) said the Cuban embargo won’t happen this year, “but I think it’s something that could happen as we move into a new president’s administration.” Corker remains neutral on changes to Cuban policy, but thought it would be “possible” if Cuba were to “evolve its behavior” as it related to human rights.
Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen grilled Secretary of State John Kerry this week during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ros-Lehtinen opposed the Obama Administration’s plans to reduce funding for Cuban victims of political repression from $20 million to $15 million. Kerry said US actions have led to progress, including more Cubans working for private enterprise. Ros-Lehtinen called that assessment naïve.
This month, two American businessmen received permission to build the first US factory on Cuban soil in 90 years. The factory will produce plows, which will likely help Cuba reduce their need for imported food.