A proposal that would designate $100 million a year for the Florida Forever land-preservation program is ready to go to the Senate floor. On Thursday, the Appropriations Committee unanimously backed a measure (SB 370) by Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
The Florida Forever program, which in the past received as much as $300 million a year, has for nearly a decade fallen out of favor among lawmakers. “With this bill, Senator Bradley is ensuring Florida’s growth is balanced with land conservation, now and in the future,”Aliki Moncrief, of the Florida Conservation Voters, said in a statement following the meeting.
Gov. Rick Scott proposed spending $50 million on the program next year. Voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment that requires a portion of real-estate taxes to be used for conservation. Bradley’s bill would tap part of that money for Florida Forever.
Lawmakers also are looking at using the money for other environmental projects. Bradley wants to increase annual funding (SB 204) for the state’s natural springs from $50 million to $75 million and to set aside $50 million a year for the restoration of the St. Johns River, its tributaries and the Keystone Heights lake region in North Florida.
Meanwhile, Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, are seeking another $50 million from the fund (SB 786 and HB 339) to help restore the condition of the Indian River Lagoon.
Also, Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, has taken over legislation (SB 174), initially filed by former Sen. Jack Latvala, that seeks $50 million a year for beach projects.