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Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman May 27, 2011

Water savings plan doesn't escape Scott's veto pen

Among the $615 million in budget vetoes Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced at a ceremonial event May 26, 2011, Scott highlighted one -- $250,000, he said, earmarked to learn how to catch rainwater. "Where I'm from, rainwater can be caught with a two-dollar bucket," he said.

Was that really in the budget?

Scott described the $250,000 in his list of vetoes as a "water savings plan." The list included the specific line item where the expenditure could be found in the 400-plus-page budget, so we went there to see if Scott described accurately what the money was for.

The money, it turns out, was tucked into the Department of Corrections budget.

Here's the exact language:

"From the funds in Specific Appropriations 595 through 688A, $250,000 in recurring general revenue funds is provided to the Department of Corrections to issue a request for proposal, as defined in section 287.057(1)(b), Florida Statutes, for the development of a water savings plan that creates performance standards for rain water harvesting and water reuse to achieve annual cost savings of at least 25 percent from the 2008, 2009, and 2010 calendar years. By no later than September 30, 2011, the department shall identify a vendor to conduct and inventory the water consumption of all department facilities consuming water for irrigation, gray water or drinking water purposes, including an inventory of each facility’s roof surface area. To achieve these cost savings objectives, the vendor shall submit a plan to the department by February 1, 2012, which identifies the most cost-effective plan for the procurement of services and cistern products and establishes performance standards for the efficient and effective use of water resources and estimates of future potential savings and other related benefits."

In short, the $250,000 was to be spent to develop a plan to catch and collect rain water so that it could lower prison water costs by 25 percent. So while developing the plan would have cost the state $250,000, the idea was to save the state some money on water costs -- we don't know how much (and asked the Department of Corrections, for the record, but did not hear back).

"I'm sure most Floridians believe as I do that spending $250,000 on education materials for our kids is more important that spending a quarter of a million dollars to learn how to catch rainwater," Scott said in announcing the veto.

Where did the request for the money come from?

Not the Department of Corrections, said spokeswoman Gretl Plesinger. Plesinger said the money was not included in the department's legislative budget request.

And the money was not included in the version of the budget that initially passed the House.

In fact, it seems the idea came from someone in the Senate. The water savings plan was included in the original Senate budget proposal, and remained in the budget that the Senate initially passed. Actually, the Senate proposed spending $500,000 on the creation of the water savings plan. The amount was lowered to $250,000 as part of negotiations between the House and Senate.

There's no doubt, then, that Scott was right, that included in the 2011-12 budget was a $250,000 appropriation to develop a plan to catch and collect water (he said "learn"). But there's an important note that he left out in announcing his budget vetoes. The budget language that included the appropriation said the water savings plan was supposed to reduce prison water costs by 25 percent. The savings could have offset or at least cut into the upfront investment. So we rate this claim Mostly True.

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Water savings plan doesn't escape Scott's veto pen

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