Florida House Doesn’t Budge on Everglades ‘Legacy’ Money

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News Service of FloridaTHE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 1, 2016………. The House is sticking with a proposal to create a 10-year funding pool only for Everglades restoration, setting up potential negotiations with the Senate on how to spend voter-approved money for land and water conservation.

With little comment, the proposal known as “Legacy Florida” was teed up Tuesday for a House vote as soon as Wednesday.

The House proposal (HB 989), which seeks at least $200 million a year for Everglades projects, is narrower than a Senate proposal.

House co-sponsors Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, said after a floor session Tuesday they do not plan to amend their measure to match a Senate bill (SB 1168), which includes $145 million in annual Everglades funding and $50 million a year for the state’s natural springs. Also, the bill would provide $5 million a year for Lake Apopka and $5 million a year for Kings Bay or Crystal River.

“We are going to pass ours out clean and pristine, as we hope the water will one day be,” Harrell said. “We’re going to make sure that we get our bill over there, and then we’ll start the negotiation process if necessary.”

Caldwell and Harrell said they’d be open to discussing funding for springs and other water projects if the Senate would bring its proposal back toward $200 million for the Everglades. An earlier Senate version included that amount for Everglades-related projects.

Caldwell reiterated his stance that the money should go where projects have already been identified.

“What is it going to be spent on?” Caldwell said in regard to the Senate’s springs funding. “We know what the projects are when it comes to the Everglades.”

The money for the work would come from the state’s land-acquisition trust fund, which is used to carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires a portion of documentary-stamp taxes to be set aside for land and water buying and preservation.

Senators, including bill sponsor Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who is slated to become Senate president this fall, said Monday they intend to push for higher numbers as budget talks continue.