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- 2014 - August - 5th -
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Gov. Rick Scott

Scott pitches $1B environmental plan

By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday rolled out a $1 billion environmental blueprint for Florida, the latest piece of his re-election platform.

The plan, announced during campaign appearances in Stuart and Jupiter, lines up in places with a proposed constitutional amendment that will go before voters this fall and is intended to dedicate such funding in the state budget.

However, Scott remains undecided on the ballot issue.

The Florida Democratic Party quickly called Scott’s environmental proposal an “election year gimmick.”

Meanwhile, backers of the “Florida Water and Land Legacy” constitutional-amendment drive applauded Scott for recognizing the importance of water and land conservation.

Yet, amendment backers maintained that their initiative will do more for preservation of the

state.

Unlike the proposed amendment, Scott’s 10-year funding proposal wouldn’t lock lawmakers into having to approve money in the state budget for such things as land conservation, protecting water resources and helping the Everglades.

Scott’s proposal includes investing $50 million a year for alternative water-supply projects and another $50 million a year for natural springs restoration.

Scott’s plan calls for increasing penalties on polluters, creating a position in the governor’s office focused on efforts to move water south through the Everglades rather than east and west, making commitments to protect the Florida Keys and Apalachicola Bay, lobbying Congress to provide matching funds for South Florida water projects and committing $150 million-a-year for Florida Forever to preserve such things as sensitive lands.

The amendment seeks to set aside 33 percent of the state’s documentary stamp tax revenues --- fees paid when real estate is sold — for 20 years to acquire conservation and recreation lands, manage existing lands, protect lands that are critical for water supply and restore degraded natural systems.

The idea for the amendment was spawned as funding diminished for the Florida Forever program. Florida Forever, which uses bonds backed with revenue from the documentary stamps, authorizes lawmakers to spend up to $300 million a year for preservation.

Eric Draper, Audubon Florida executive director, said there were “rough challenges” for environmentalists from Scott in his first years in office, but it appears the governor “saw he was getting positive reviews on Everglades issues.”

The funding plan comes after a legislative session in which lawmakers allocated more than $220 million for efforts to clean the water in South Florida. Lawmakers also approved $30 million for the springs this past session, up from $10 million in 2013.

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