Scott recommends $100 million for springs, new water sources
One of the pledges Gov. Rick Scott made during his bid for four more years was that he would turn on the funding spigot for springs restoration and water programs, something he had largely ignored his first term.
While his call for $5 billion to restore the Everglades has been getting the headlines (including $150 million in his 2015-16 budget proposal), he also is asking lawmakers to commit money to restoration and alternative water supply projects. They are part of his $77 million budget proposal, revealed in January. The Legislature has a $1 billion tax surplus to play with this year, although Scott has already asked for $673 million in tax cuts.
His proposal includes $50 million to help clean up the state's freshwater springs, which are becoming increasingly polluted and in some cases are reversing their natural flows. That's the same recommendation Scott made last year, his office said, although the Legislature eventually approved $30 million.
That was still up from $10 million in 2013 -- after state water management districts had asked for $122 million. Scott's office said it projects spending on restoration projects to grow, eventually receiving $1.6 billion over 20 years.
Like the Everglades projects, Scott is proposing to help pay for springs using some of the dedicated funds from Amendment 1, the measure overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2014 to set aside a third of documentary stamp taxes to pay for land and water conservation for the next 20 years. We should note Scott never took a position on Amendment 1 during the 2014 election season.
Scott also recommended $50 million for programs to develop alternative water supplies through sources besides pumping from the Floridan Aquifer. That's a new recommendation that wasn't in last year's budget proposal, his office said, and is part of a projected 10-year, $500 million project to increase the state's water supply by 250 million gallons per day.
The Legislature begins its 2015 session on March 3, and will consider Scott's proposals, although it does not have to approve them. In lieu of a final budget, we'll rate this promise In The Works.
Tampa Bay Times, "Florida water management districts seek $122 million for springs restoration," Jan. 22, 2013
Tallahassee Democrat, "Gov. Rick Scott pitches his $1B environmental plan," Aug. 4, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, "Pro-environment Amendment 1 a big hit with voters, but no one knows what Legislature will do," Nov. 5, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, "Gov. Scott proposes $77 billion budget with $673 million in tax cuts," Jan. 28, 2015
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, "Governor Scott's "Keep Florida Working" Budget Recommends Nearly $1.6 Billion to Protect and Preserve Florida's Natural Resources," Jan. 28, 2015
Keep Florida Working, "Strengthening Florida Communities," accessed Feb. 4, 2015
Interview with Jeri Bustamante, Rick Scott spokeswoman, Feb. 4, 2015
Interview with Dee Ann Miller, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, Feb. 4-5, 2015