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Florida House Eyes Environmental Money

Clint Thompson Environment, Florida

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Governor Ron DeSantis

From the News Service of Florida:

Gov. Ron DeSantis would get more than the $625 million he requested for environmental projects, Florida Forever would see a funding cut and Visit Florida would be shuttered, under parts of a House budget proposal released Tuesday.

The House and the Senate began releasing budget proposals Tuesday as they prepare to negotiate a final spending plan in March for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The House is proposing $4.1 billion in the agriculture and natural resources part of the budget, up 3.7 percent from the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The proposal includes $646.8 million for DeSantis’ requested environmental projects.

“I’m very pleased to present a budget proposal that continues to invest in our commitment to Everglades restoration and protecting Florida’s water resources,” said Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican who chairs the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

The House proposal includes $318.3 million for Everglades restoration, nearly $4 million less than what DeSantis requested in his overall $91.4 billion budget plan. The House also wants $122 million for wastewater and stormwater grants, which includes efforts to get property owners off septic tanks, $28 million below the governor’s proposal.

The House is offering $20 million for Florida Forever, $80 million below DeSantis’ proposal for the land preservation program, which prior to the recession a decade ago, was funded at $300 million a year. The current year’s budget has $33 million for Florida Forever.

The House proposal meets DeSantis’ $50 million request for the state’s natural springs and $50 million for beach restoration.

Slightly exceeding DeSantis, the House wants $22.8 million for efforts tied to combating algal blooms and red tide, including $10 million for technologies and short-term solutions to address algal blooms and nutrient pollution.

Another $6 million from the House would go to the state’s resilient coastline initiative, of which $4 million is to help coastal communities prepare for the effects of rising sea levels.

The House is also offering $19.1 million to pay citrus canker eradication claims in Lee County and $42.2 million for claims in Orange County. That comes after long-running litigation — including a Lee County case pending at the Florida Supreme Court — about whether the state should be forced to compensate residents whose healthy citrus trees were cut down.

In addition, the House budget proposal includes $23.1 million to combat ongoing problems with citrus greening disease.