Rick Scott signed the state’s budget for 2014-15 yesterday including rewards galore for his republican buddies who salted it heavily with election year goodies for the home boys. You can count it as major political maneuvering and a down payment on his next election. The difference between his buying his election four years ago with $74 million of his own cash and this one is, this time he’s using your taxes dollars to do it.
It’s a bit disgusting the way state republicans, after three years of gutting the state’s ability to manage and protect its natural resources because, they said, the state had no money and had to tighten its belt, they are now funding a boat load of local feel-good projects designed to capture your warm and fuzzies, and your vote in November.
It’s so obvious and so disingenuous that, as I said, it’s disgusting … and yet, will you vote for him nevertheless?
If you do, you will be endorsing one of the most destructive periods in Florida’s recent history in terms of the harm that will be done to Florida’s natural systems and, thus, to its long term economic future and quality of life. You will also be rewarding those who are responsible for dismantling the state’s long term planning ability leaving the state’s future to be controlled and directed by land developers, phosphate and rock miners, power companies and those who represent themselves as farmers but who are often times nothing more than foreign industrial magnates looking to make greater profits by further exploiting what’s left of natural Florida.
As a voting public, I know long-term thinking isn’t a strong suit of ours but November will be a critical decision point. Choose Rick Scott and the next four years will forever cast in flint-hard stone the course he has set, which is to serve only those special interests whose sole focus is making a return for shareholders with no regard for the impact it will have on where you and I live, where our children will live, and where their children will.
The Florida Conservation Coalition is one of the most responsible, highly respected and influential environmental groups in Florida because it is affiliated with many of the state’s most prestigious environmental organizations and thousands of individuals including former Governor and U. S. Senator, Bob Graham.
Yesterday it published a response to the $77 billion state budget Rick Scott signed the same day. The FCC was established and is now lead by some of the most dedicated and sincere people, frankly, that I’ve had the honor to know in my 40-plus years of involvement with natural resource management in Florida. The response is remarkable because it is very carefully written to reflect the intense dedication the organization has toward being truthful, accurate and tough; a complex and difficult task given the diverse nature of its many affiliated members and supporters whose often disparate positions must be respected.
I urge you to read it. It is clearly a signal that this state’s environmental community is feeling frustration, disappointment and certainly anger, that is perhaps too well suppressed. I hope it will charge you with the feeling that we cannot sit still and be quiet, because if it doesn’t, the course of intentional environmental neglect Rick Scott has set for Florida will forever change the tremendous natural heritage it has so generously afforded us, and we will all be at fault.
Here’s the FCC’s response: (Find the published version HERE)
Florida Conservation Coalition Response to Governor’s Budget Signing
By signing the FY 2015 budget Governor Rick Scott may attempt to take credit for providing historic levels of funding for Florida’s springs and the Everglades. In doing so, however, he will ignore the massive budget cuts to water protection agencies and land conservation projects brought on by his administration and the Legislature.
Governor Scott was elected on the idea of reducing the size and cost of government. This focus has been evident since the Governor signed his first budget in 2011, in which he vetoed the entire $305 million annual appropriation for Florida Forever and bragged of cutting $700 million more from Florida’s five water management districts.
Cuts to the Suwannee River and Northwest Florida Water Management District budgets resulted in those two agencies postponing setting minimum flows for springs. Cuts to the South Florida Water Management District, exceeding $200 million, caused the agency to reconsider investments in the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs and other Everglades clean-up work. These are the very same projects that the current administration and Legislature are now funding in this year’s budget, after several years of needless delay.
Unfortunately, in light of these actions, claims that our freshwater springs and the renowned Everglades are being saved by this budget may appropriately be viewed as election year efforts to make voters forget the effects that previous budget cuts and staff reductions have had on the programs and agencies responsible for the health of our waters and protection of our natural lands.
To judge the current administration’s commitment to environmental protection, recent spending claims have to be weighed against past actions: Florida’s FY 2008 budget included $200 million for the Everglades and the Northern Everglades, in addition to the more than $100 million spent that year on Everglades projects by the South Florida Water Management District from its own budget. Additionally, during the previous administration, the South Florida Water Management District spent more than $500 million in one year buying land that will be used in a program to expand water treatment and storage.
Along with cutting water management district budgets, Governor Scott has consistently refused to propose anything but minimal funding for the state’s land acquisition programs which include projects to protect Florida’s springs and buy at-risk wetlands and panther habitat in the Everglades. Previously, in a single year, the Florida Forever program spent approximately $70 million on protecting land that recharges Silver Springs, more than the entire statewide appropriation for Florida Forever this year.
Prior to 2011, thirty percent of Florida Forever program funds were allocated to the water management districts to purchase land to recharge water supplies, store and treat floodwaters and protect our most vulnerable springs and rivers. This year, however, Florida Forever allocations to water management districts to protect water resources were not included in the Governor’s budget. Instead the districts were allocated $20 million in previously appropriated funds for land conservation.
Compared to previous budgets by this administration, this one shows modest increases in conservation funding. That said, it pales in comparison to the funding and commitments to Florida’s water and land resources of past administrations.