NORTH NAPLES, Fla. Gov. Rick Scott proposed using $1.7 billion of the 2018-2019 recommended budget for environmental purposes during an announcement Monday.
The $1.7 billion would comprise of $55 million dedicated to springs, $100 million allocated for beaches, $355 million going towards Everglades restoration, $50 million for state parks, and $50 million invested preserving lands through Florida Forever, according to Scott.
Scott added the funds are instrumental to helping the economy more than a month after Hurricane Irma hit the state.
“Our natural treasures are so important to Florida’s economy and tourism industry and the many families that rely on them,” Scott said in a statement.
Scott spoke at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, an ecological preserve that the public can visit in eastern Collier County.
“When you think of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you think of the environment,” Scott said.
The proposal, which will be included when Scott releases his overall budget recommendations before the end of the year, drew some scorn from Democrats who labeled him an “election year environmentalist” for past promises on Florida Forever funding. Scott is expected to run for U.S. Senate next year.
Meanwhile, conservationists said the proposal reflects a growing, positive change among Republican policymakers toward the environment since voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment that required increased spending on land and water preservation.
However, concerns remain that more funding is needed for Florida Forever and that Scott isn’t adequately addressing the problems of sea-level rise and climate change.
“Hurricane Irma made it devastatingly clear that we need bold action and visionary leadership to confront the growing problems associated with sea-level rise and climate change,” Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief said. “A robustly funded Florida Forever enables us to mitigate these problems by strategically conserving important wetlands and floodplains.”
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, was more diplomatic. Draper noted that just a few years ago, many leading Republican lawmakers argued that the state had too much land in its inventory to justify preserving more.
“Overall, the budget addresses the most important issues: the springs, land conservation and the Everglades,” Draper said.
Lawmakers will consider the proposal during the 2018 legislative session, which starts in March.
Information from The News Service of Florida was used in this post.