Lawmakers return to Tallahassee for their annual legislative session this spring. Topping the agenda a 3.5 billion dollar budget shortfall, but softening the blow could be as simple as re-naming Florida's roads.
After spending a year in Dallas., Cheryle and Roosevelt Hays have gotten homesick. They're on the road again, bound for their beloved Orlando. If lawmakers in Tallahassee have their way, the route they're taking may soon have a whole new theme. A bill filed in the house would let companies bid for the naming rights of state roads.
Just imagine, The Walt Disney Turnpike.
"The economy in Florida needs all the help it can get. I think naming the turnpike, have something to do with Disney, be able to direct people right into Disney and into the Orlando area, which, the whole state of Florida needs help,” Roosevelt Hays says.
Disney's only one example of a company that might jump to cut a check for as much as a hundred million dollars a year.
Using Florida's highways to help balance a multi-billion dollar budget deficit may be a novel idea,
But, could it be an on ramp to the kind of commercialization critics complain is ruining American society?
“I think the genie's already out of the bottle there,” says Doug Callaway, a transportation advocate.
As Callaway points out, most highways are already dotted with billboards, chain restaurants, shopping centers, and, well...the list goes on. When it comes to re-naming roads, all he cares about is making sure the revenue goes back to road building.
“If we're going to sell naming rights for a highway, the proceeds for that ought to go for transportation, not to plug budget holes for government somewhere else,” Callaway says.
In a tough budget year, there's no guarantee that would happen. Cheryle's not ready to drive down a 'Disney turnpike', not even if it means making sacrifices elsewhere.
I don't think it should be for sale - it should be a famous person versus a company, but he and i disagree. We've always disagreed!” Cheryle Hays says.
If they disagree, there's a good chance lawmakers will too.
As it stands, 80% of the Proceeds would go directly to the state’s transportation trust fun, which pays for road construction and maintenance.