From: News Service of Florida
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican next in line to become Senate president, filed a bill Thursday that could direct to South Florida water projects a quarter of the money approved by voters to annually go into statewide water and land preservation. The bill matches a House proposal announced Dec. 1 by Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart. The proposal, known as “Legacy Florida,” would designate 25 percent or $200 million a year, whichever is lower, from a state land-acquisition trust fund for Everglades and Lake Okeechobee projects. Harrell and Negron attended a press conference Thursday along the downtown Stuart Riverwalk to discuss the “Legacy Florida” funding. As with the House proposal (HB 989), Negron’s measure (SB 1168) would target money for projects geared toward restoring the flow of water across South Florida, including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program. The bulk of the money, through fiscal year 2025-2026, would go to plan, design and construct the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. At least $32 million a year through the 2023-2024 fiscal year is proposed go to the South Florida Water Management District for its long-term water plans. The land-acquisition trust fund will serve for 20 years as the storage point for 33 percent of a type of real-estate tax dollars that Florida voters approved in 2014 for land and water buying and preservation. That approval came through a ballot initiative known as Amendment 1. Gov. Rick Scott’s office has estimated Amendment 1 is expected to generate $905 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1. The measure was projected to generate $740 million in the current fiscal year.