When Government Works

85

What a sweet spot it is, when the heavens align and the government we elected actually does something that the majority of voters want done. In this case, that would be Florida House and Florida Senate budget proposals that both include funds for Governor DeSantis’ environmental projects.

In early January, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order addressing Florida’s water quality problems. That order called for $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources at the highest restoration funding level in Florida history. His proposal received raves from a broad cross section of Florida clean water advocates.

The big question was, would the Florida Senate and Florida House support funding for those water projects. Each Florida house made noises early on that they were not a rubber stamp for the Governor’s plan. They had their own priorities, plus Hurricane Michael had pummeled north Florida. They were not anxious to commit to supporting a state budget that gave the Governor his requested $625 million that is this year’s first installment of that $2.5 billion.

Yet this week, both House and Senate budget proposals have funding to support DeSantis’ water quality requests. What a nice surprise! The Senate’s initial proposal includes $656 million for Everglades restoration and water quality projects, well over DeSantis’ initial request. On the House side, their initial proposal includes $607.4 million for Everglades restoration and water projects, about $18 million short.

The full Florida House and Senate will approve budgets in the coming weeks and negotiate a final spending plan for the 2019-20120 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Feds Fall Short

On the federal level, Florida’s Everglades and water quality budget requests are getting significantly less respect and support, as usual. Last month, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rick Scott and Governor DeSantis jointly asked President Donald Trump to include $200 million a year in the federal budget for Everglades restoration. The full 27-member Florida congressional delegation made a similar request in January. That rare and powerful unanimous request was ignored. Trump’s budget request has just $63.3 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Everglades restoration, plus $5.5 million for Operations and Maintenance, about $130 million short.

The federal shortfall in funding for Everglades restoration is a recurring theme and in a joint press release, Senators Rubio and Scott, along with U.S. Representative Brian Mast and Francis Rooney pointed that out. “Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers envisioned a $200 million per year federal commitment when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was first authorized nearly 20 years ago, and it is time for the administration to meet that commitment.”

Florida environmental advocates have joined the chorus asking for federal support of Everglades restoration at levels promised nearly two decades ago. Floridians and all who appreciate the Everglades and clean water are urged to contact their elected representatives and urge full funding of Everglades and water quality projects. To find your elected officials, go to lee.vote and select “Elected Officials.”

 

Missy Layfield
Editor