Everglades funding is restored, next target is water districts
A year after slashing Everglades funding, Florida lawmakers appear poised to give some back.
House and Senate budget negotiators this week agreed to set aside some $30 million for restoration projects. That’s still $10 million short of Gov. Rick Scott’s request but a major leap from the zero the Senate had initially penciled in.
Environmental groups praised the move as a positive sign, saying they were cautiously optimistic that it signaled a change in direction from last year’s tough session, when lawmakers and Scott gutted Everglades and conservation land-buying programs, state growth management rules and other long-standing regulations.
Now, they’re keeping their fingers crossed the trend will continue with a still-bigger target — a Senate bill that would lift spending caps lawmakers last year placed on the state’s five water management districts, which are largely funded by property tax revenue.
The Florida Conservation Coalition calculated that the cap, placed on property tax rates that supply much of the districts’ revenues, wound up shriveling budgets by nearly 40 percent, or $700 million. The law also shifted oversight of the agencies’ spending to the Legislature. Keep reading.