Editorial: Demand full funding for Florida Forever

flor forever photo In: Editorial: Demand full funding for Florida Forever | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River*

Nowhere do we see the need for better leadership more than when our elected leaders choose to ignore the wishes of the people regarding the environment.  Our representatives seem to see those wishes as a carte blanche opportunity to use the money for their personal whims and to pay back favors, and so on.

Commendations to the Gainesville Sun editorial board for supporting not only the environment, but what is right and fair (something our “leaders” have forgotten.)  Read the complete article here.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-

 Editorial: Demand full funding for Florida Forever

     By The Gainesville Sun editorial board

Posted Jan 21, 2018 at 2:01 AM

It’s an election year, so Florida officials suddenly seem concerned about the environment.

Funding for the Florida Forever land-conservation program will be a huge test. The state’s growth and the algae outbreaks and other problems with water quality seen in recent years demand a renewed commitment to protecting ecologically sensitive lands from development.

Yet between 2009 and 2014, state lawmakers slashed funding for Florida Forever by more than 97 percent, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Voters responded by overwhelming approving a state constitutional amendment in 2014 that was supposed to set aside a third of revenue from an existing real-estate tax for land purchases, restoration and management.

State lawmakers, however, had other ideas. They have repeatedly failed to spend anywhere close to the $750 million that the amendment was meant to allocate, or even the $300 million spent on Florida Forever before the recession.

Environmental groups sued in 2015 over the misspending, but the trial won’t even start until this summer. In the meantime, some environmental advocates are cheering that the Florida Senate is considering spending $100 million annually for Florida Forever — even though that too falls short of the amendment’s intent.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican whose district used to include Alachua County, deserves credit for doubling the $50 million that Gov. Scott proposed spending on the program. Bradley has also advocated for increased spending on springs restoration and other water projects.

His Florida Forever bill, sent to the Senate floor after unanimously passing a committee he now chairs, includes a needed amendment he added that prohibits the money from being spent on administrative costs at state agencies. Lawmakers used that ploy in previous years, spending the little allocated for conservation on expenses such as salaries and insurance.

But a companion bill has yet to get a hearing in the House, where GOP lawmakers have previously fought increased conservation spending. To change their minds, voters will need to make the environment a key issue this election year.

Voters must demand state lawmakers do more than feign concern for the environment this year — they must adequately fund Florida Forever, or else pay at the ballot box this fall.

*Gainesville Sun photo of palms near Micanopy on lands partially funded through Florida Forever

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