FDFC silent after lawmakers question All Aboard Florida bonding process - Florida Politics

FDFC silent after lawmakers question All Aboard Florida bonding process

Two Republican lawmakers are still waiting for a response from the Florida Development Finance Corporation about its approval of a $600 million private equity bond application for All Aboard Florida.

The rail project is seeking to provide passenger service from Miami to West Palm Beach and, eventually, service to Orlando.

FDFC approved the issuance of $1.75 billion in bonds for All Aboard Florida back in 2015, but Martin and Indian River counties brought forward a suit alleging that the project violated the National Environmental Policy Act.

A federal judge agreed and ruled last year that NEPA applied to the project since the federal government would not receive tax payments on the bonds — a subsidy valued at $600 million.

Though All Aboard Florida and the U.S. Department of Transportation withdrew the original bond allocation as a result of the ruling, the U.S. DOT went on to provide AAF with a new $600 million bond allocation for the Miami to West Palm Beach phase of the project without restarting the FDFC approval process.

The rail company also filed papers in court indicating it was looking for another $1.15 billion in bonds for the West Palm Beach to Orlando phase.

Miami Sen. Anitere Flores sent a letter to FDFC Director William Spivey in February asking what the FDFC’s role was with the approval of the new bond.

Flores asked, “As the bond issuer to this new $600 million application, did the FDFC take the position that AAF can simply rely upon previous FDFC actions taken with respect to the AAF bonding process?”

“Based on DOT’s recent approval of this $600 million allocation, I am concerned that the FDFC has informally agreed that it can simply transfer its previous actions and approvals to the new application, without any further consideration of the economic and social impacts of the project it would help fund,” she said.

SD 17 Sen. Debbie Mayfield echoed Flores with a letter dated March 30 and asked Spivey weigh in on the bonding process for the new allocation by April 10.

Spivey, nor any other representative of the FDFC, has responded to the questions posed by the two lawmakers.

CARE FL, an organization opposed to the rail line, called the lack of a response from FDFC alarming and said that original allocation was flawed from the start.

(Imagine the man parts it takes for Spivey et. al. to ignore not one, but two state senators. Now, that’s arrogance!)

The group, comprised of HOAs and concerned citizens along the Treasure Coast route of the project, considered last year’s court ruling a big win and take umbrage with AAF and US DOT for what they say is skirting the law on the new bond allocation.

“What is extremely troubling is that the FDFC has yet to respond to concerns from Sens. Flores and Mayfield regarding how a 2015 proceeding to approve bonds can be used to justify approval of a subsequent Nov. 2016 bond issuance,” the group said Wednesday.

After the original bond issuance was withdrawn, US DOT and AAF again sought to dismiss the case. The counties filed opposition motions Jan. 16 and US DOT and AAF filed reply briefs Jan. 31.

With the case fully briefed, both sides are waiting on a final court ruling.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
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