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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Despite Scott talking point, Florida still adding debt



110617_rick_scott.jpgIn the wake of the federal debt debate, Gov. Rick Scott has found a talking point:

"We're not doing any new debt." --Today on WIOD-AM.

"We stopped the spending in the state. We're not incurring new debt." -- Thursday on WCOA-AM.

"What the federal government is doing is not sustainable. We've got to live within our means as we did in Florida. We balanced our budget. We stopped growing our debt in our state." -- Aug 12 to capital reporters.

Scott's close, but not exactly correct.

This year, Scott signed a budget that authorizes new tax-supported debt of $101 for right-of-way purchases and up to $119 million for public school and community college construction projects.

Meanwhile, Scott and the Cabinet have also voted to approve roughly $232 million in new debt. That money is for projects authorized by past legislatures, but just now reaching the Cabinet.

While it's inaccurate to say Florida has no new debt under Scott, what's been added is significantly less this year than usual. Over the past decade, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Cabinet has added about $1.5 billion annually to the state's tax-supported debt load, according to state bond finance director Ben Watkins. That debt stands now at $23 billion.

The state has refinanced about $1.5 billion in bonds this year, saving the state $135 million, Watkins told the Cabinet this morning.

"We, for the first time, haven't significantly increased our debt," Watkins told Scott this morning. "The pace of increase has abated. I'll say that."

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 9:51am]


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