Governor Rick Scott was in Maitland, Florida on Monday discussing his proposed budget and the big budget fixes for the Everglades pollution to Wekiwa Springs and every other natural resource Florida has.
The only thing Governor Scott failed to mention in his address to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland was the controversy over how the state should spend millions of dollars arising from overwhelming voter approval last year of Amendment 1.
It is the Florida Legislature’s constitutional responsibility to work with the Governor to craft an annual balanced budget to meet the needs of our state. Through the Legislature, all the needs of the state are considered, debated, and approved by elected representatives. This is designed to address in a balanced way, the comprehensive state needs.
Amendment One restricts the Legislature’s ability and flexibility to budget or allocate funding for an array of state-wide critical needs such as transportation, education, affordable housing, and economic development, etc.
The purchase of land by government is a one-time expense. The maintenance of government property is a growing, on-going expense to also be accounted for. In other words, as government ownership of land increases, so maintenance costs increase including more employees, more facilities, and more equipment.
Amendment 1 supporters at the gathering commented that although they appreciate the governor’s growing focus on land, water and wildlife. Ultimately fear Scott and lawmakers will hijack Amendment 1, and abuse it for not for purchasing environmental lands to preserve them but rather use it for existing obligations.
The amendment allows Florida to use proceeds from doc stamps in real estate deals. This revenue can add up to billions of dollars; this year alone is projected to bring in more than $750 million dollars..
Scott’s proposed budget plan would add $82.5 million to Amendment 1 money, yielding over $190 million for environmental lands, $140 million for Everglades restoration and $50 million to revive natural springs, like Wekiva, Blue Springs, and others according to Scott’s office.
“On top of that, our goal is to have a dedicated source of funding for the next 20 years where we will have $1.6 billion worth of funding for our springs,” Scott said.
According to Clay Henderson, a lawyer and environmentalist who helped write Amendment 1, said his analysis of Scott’s budget reports that dozens of existing state obligations would get 66% of the first year of amendment revenue.
While lawmakers have their own ideas on Amendement 1 finances. environmentalist groups are sending regular updates about the provisions and how the Florida legislative session proceeds next month.
“The dedication of money to springs and the Everglades is exciting,” Henderson said. “But at the end of the day, we will judge the success of Amendment 1 by how much of it is spent on existing programs.”
One thing is certain we need to voters of Amendment 1 need to pay attention to ensure that the allocated funds are spent for it’s core purpose preserving our natural resources and not something else.