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Florida TaxWatch Chairman’s Dinner

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Florida TaxWatch Chairman's Dinner
Palm Beach, Florida
Monday, December 2, 2019

Thank you, Governor Martinez for that introduction and Chairman Neal for inviting me to join you today for your 40th anniversary meeting.  Congratulations!

It is wonderful to see so many leaders committed to making a real difference for our country.  Your advocacy for better, more responsive government and policies that support economic growth will help reduce unnecessary burdens that hamper investments and job creation.

This matters most to small business employers, who employ about 50 percent of all workers in our country.  They are responsible for two-thirds of all net new job creation.  It’s much harder for them to cope with government paperwork burdens than large corporations, which can afford to hire a lawyers and accountants to comply. That’s why from the very first day, this Administration has made cutting taxes and reducing red tape two of its top priorities.   

The results have been spectacular.   This Administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is fueling one of the largest economic expansions in our Nation’s history.

•        Economic growth remains robust at a 2.1 percent annual rate in the third quarter of 2019.

•        more than 6.7 million jobs have been created since the 2016 election. 

•        In October, the unemployment rate was a low 3.6 percent – remaining near the lowest unemployment rate in over 50 years. 

•        The unemployment rate for African Americans and Hispanic Americans is at the lowest level since the government began recording this data in 1972.

•        National average hourly earnings grew by 3% over the past 12 months, putting more money into the pockets of workers and their families.

Another factor in this strong growth has been the Administration’s success in cutting back the excessive regulations that were impacting job creation.  the Department of Transportation, in fact, is rated number one in the cabinet in reducing unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations and this helps safety.

In the previous Administration, the Department of Transportation alone imposed about $2-3 billion in new annualized regulatory costs each year and this heavy level of regulations throughout the Executive Branch was one of the reasons the economy was in the doldrums.    In February 2017, the Administration signed an Executive Order which required two regulations to be withdrawn for every one new regulation.  Under this Administration, regulatory costs just at the Department of Transportation alone has been decreased by a net of $3.7 billion.  The Department accomplished this by pursuing regulatory reform, while ensuring that the regulatory costs we do impose are necessary for safety.

The Administration is taking additional steps to boost economic growth.  One of these is awaiting the House’s action and that is the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).  The new agreement:

•        Does more than any prior agreement to eliminate non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies that hamper job creation.

•        If approved, will potentially generate an estimated $34 billion in new automotive manufacturing investments and create 76,000 automotive jobs in this country.

•        Gives American farmers and dairy producers fairer access to Canadian markets.

•        The independent International Trade Commission has estimated that approval of the agreement will result in stronger growth, more exports, more jobs and rising wages for Americans.

To support economic growth, the Department is working to improve transportation system and infrastructure.  Its efforts are guided by three priorities:

The first is: safety, which is always #1.

The second priority is rebuilding and refurbishing our country’s critical infrastructure.

Over the past three years, the Department distributed nearly $200 billion dollars to help state and local governments address infrastructure needs – from roads and bridges to aviation, rail and transit.  Florida has received more than $8 billion since 2017.

Just last month, I visited Orlando to announce three different BUILD grants for Florida.  The $20 million BUILD grant for Orange County. will support the county’s Reimagining Mobility project.

Jacksonville received $20 million to modernize the SSA Marine Inc. cargo terminal on Blount Island.

And Miami received $22 million to enhance a 10-mile mass transit corridor.

Under the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Project program, $60 million was awarded to build or repair small bridges across a 6.5-mile section of US-41/Tamiami Trail. 

Florida also received two INFRA grants in Fiscal Year 2019.

Space Florida was awarded $90 million to replace the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Indian River Bridge, as well as widen and rehabilitate roads in the spaceport.

And Port Miami was awarded $8 million to rehabilitate facilities and create new capacity in the Seaboard Marine Terminal.

Over the last two and a half years, the Department of Transportation has also delivered $656.1 million to airports across the state of Florida. Some recent recipients included:

  • Melbourne International, Airport $6.2 million
  • Orlando International Airport, $16.49 million
  • Miami International, more than $23 million, and
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, more than $44.7 million.

These improvements help meet the Department’s third priority, which is to prepare for the future by engaging with emerging technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy, without hampering innovation.

That’s so important because transportation innovation is making significant progress in our country, as Floridians know so well.  Six years ago, the U.S. was third behind Russia and China in commercial space launches.  Today, the U.S. is Number One—thanks to private sector developments such as re-usable rockets, air-launch systems, and other innovations. The global space economy’s value is approaching $400 billion annually, and is expected to grow.  And it’s critical not only to Florida, but to our country.    

To support this innovation, the Department is overhauling outdated and cumbersome commercial space licensing regulations and launch procedures, and established the Office of Spaceports to license commercial spaceports, such as Florida’s Shuttle Landing Facility. 

And drones—or unmanned aerial vehicles—are another rapidly emerging new technology.  Nearly 1.5 million drones have been registered with the FAA.  These are flown by more than 150,000 certificated remote pilots, a new job category.  This is triple the number in 2017. 

These are just a sampling of the Department’s activities to ensure that our transportation system and infrastructure are safe, reliable and ready for the future.  It’s great to be here with you tonight.  Thank you for everything you are doing to create jobs, opportunity and prosperity for Florida and our country.