TEXT - Fitch affirms Florida Ports Financing Commission revs
Dec 6 - Fitch Ratings affirms the 'AA' rating on the following Florida Ports Financing Commission bonds: --$10.65 million refunding revenue bonds (state transportation trust fund), series 2011A (non-AMT); --$141.24 million refunding revenue bonds (state transportation trust fund), series 2011B (AMT); --$66.3 million refunding revenue bonds (state transportation trust fund-intermodal program), series 2011A (non-AMT); --$47 million refunding revenue bonds (state transportation trust fund-intermodal program), series 2011B (AMT). The Rating Outlook is Stable. SECURITY The bonds are limited and special obligations of the commission, payable solely from $25 million appropriated annually from motor vehicle license tax revenues deposited into the state transportation trust fund, subordinate to the state education capital outlay distribution and $25 million for general transportation purposes. KEY RATING DRIVERS FIXED APPROPRIATION FOR DEBT SERVICE: The bonds are secured by statutorily dedicated annually appropriated fixed dollar payments from motor vehicle license tax revenue. AMPLE DEBT SERVICE COVERAGE: Motor vehicle license tax revenue is available to the bonds only after prior pledges for state education capital outlay and general transportation purposes; however, debt service represents a small portion of the available revenues, net of the prior pledges. NO ADDITIONAL BORROWING: No additional borrowing is authorized or anticipated. CREDIT PROFILE The commission was created as part of the state's economic development plans to provide financial assistance to the state's deep water ports in an effort to improve their economic competitiveness and value. The commission issued the two series of revenue bonds in 1996 and 1999, which have since been refunded by the bonds currently outstanding, as matching funds for several of the state's ports. The commission loaned the proceeds of the bonds to the ports pursuant to separate loan agreements individually entered into between each of the ports and the commission, with the loans to be repaid only from appropriated motor vehicle license tax revenues. No additional new money authorization is available, and there are no plans for additional issuance. Technically, the bonds are secured by payments from the participating port borrowers under loan agreements, but these payments derive solely from the assignment by the borrowers of moneys due them from the state transportation trust fund (i.e. the fixed annual allocation of motor vehicle license taxes) and the participating ports have assigned their right, title, and interest in their allocation to the trustee for their respective shares of debt service. The bonds are not general obligations of the commission, the ports, or the state of Florida, and security does not depend on the operations of the ports or the projects financed. Motor vehicle license tax revenue is available for the bonds only after constitutionally dedicated distributions for state education capital outlay (distributable by formula to school and community college districts, $119 million in fiscal 2012). The license taxes remaining after the education distribution are dedicated to transportation uses of the state, with $25 million for transportation purposes prior to appropriation for the commission's bonds. The motor vehicle license tax is an annual tax for the operation of motor vehicles, including auto, motorcycle, truck, and recreational vehicles. The state increased the tax rates effective Sept. 1, 2009. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles collects the tax. Fiscal 2012 net revenues available for transportation purposes total $640 million, providing approximately 13.3 times (x) coverage of the $25 million prior transportation pledge and the $25 million appropriation for the bonds. Total motor vehicle license tax revenues in fiscal 2012 provided 4.6x coverage of the prior distribution for state education capital outlay, the $25 million for transportation purposes, and the $25 million bond appropriation. The STTF bonds and the STTF - Intermodal program bonds are separately secured, with the $15 million appropriation for the STTF senior to the $10 million appropriation for the STTF - Intermodal program bonds. This is not a credit factor given the large amount of available revenues for the appropriation. Bond issuance is limited to the amount of debt that can be serviced by the fixed annual dedications.