Friday, July 8, 2011

Citrus Chronicle: Cap Threatens State’s Water Resources

Cap threatens state’s water resources
By Chronicle Editorial Board
THE ISSUE: Water management district tax cap.
OUR OPINION: Penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Reversing four decades of measures to protect the environment and promote smart growth, recent legislation passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott has shown a disdain for the environment and growth management in the name of job creation.
Before a banner proclaiming, “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” Gov. Scott publicly signed a bill recently that caps property taxes to the state’s five water management districts. Contending that the cap will help fulfill his campaign pledge to stimulate the economy and create jobs, it promises instead to lead the state down a dangerous path of further imperiling Florida’s water resources.
The capping of property taxes to the state’s water districts may have political appeal to a public wearied by a stagnant economy and those voters who called for radical change in the last general election. Nevertheless, it is penny-wise and pound-foolish, since the tax cap’s minuscule savings to individual property owners will be at the costly expense of Florida’s lakes, rivers and estuaries.
Florida’s tourism, fishing and recreational industries depend on the water quality of thousands of miles of rivers, hundreds of thousands of acres of lakes and numerous coastal estuaries. By diminishing the ability of the water management districts to protect the state’s water resources, the tax cap’s illusory goal of stimulating the economy promises to produce the opposite effect as the pollution of our water resources becomes more pronounced and widespread.
Of the cap’s estimated $210 million in tax savings for property owners statewide, the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s 36 percent budget reduction constitutes the lion’s share among the five water management districts. The resultant reduction in funds and staffing levels will have a significant impact on Citrus County’s urgently needed water quality projects.
The Coastal Rivers Basin Board and Withlacoochee River Basin Board that served as conduits for determining funding priorities for Citrus County’s water quality projects have been axed. Community initiatives such as Three Sisters Springs will, in all probability, be a thing of the past. And sewerage, storm water runoff, surface water management and habitat restoration projects will be fewer and farther in between.
With the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s tax cap translating to a nominal annual savings of approximately $19 for the average Citrus County property owner, the benefit derived certainly does not outweigh the risk to our environment and our quality of life.
Rather than adopting pound-foolish measures such as the water districts’ tax cap to revive the state’s economy, the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov. Scott would better serve Florida by embracing the Florida Constitution that wisely decrees, “It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.”

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