Tally toll rds mike In: It works for toll roads but not for Amendment 1?-- | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
OSFR President Mike Roth speaks against the toll roads in Tallahassee. OSFR logo in top row of poster. Photo by Jim Tatum.

Contrary to the supposed “guaranteed” funds put into the Florida C0nstitution by the overwhelming passage of Amendment 1 but misappropriated by legislators, it seems that what the State wants, the State may get.

So we shall see if these funds remain as directed.

Hopefully not.

Read the entire article here in Florida Phoenix.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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Controversial toll road project funding is still intact amid $1 billion in state budget cuts

toll roads rally In: It works for toll roads but not for Amendment 1?-- | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
At a rally in March, the ‘No Roads to Ruin’ coalition condemned plans to build three toll highways through rural Florida. Now, in spite of the pandemic, the funds are veto-proof. Photo by Laura Cassels

While shaving $1 billion worth of projects from the Florida Legislature’s 2020-21 state budget, Gov. Ron DeSantis could not touch funding for future construction of three controversial toll roads through rural Florida.

That’s because the money for the toll roads is embedded in state law.

A coalition of 80 organizations and businesses in June wanted DeSantis to redirect $90 million earmarked this year for massive toll road projects called Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, or M-CORES. They wanted that money put into the state’s general budget for other needs.

But that wasn’t an option.

M CORES map In: It works for toll roads but not for Amendment 1?-- | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Study-areas map for multi-use corridors of regional economic significance, or M-CORES. Source: Florida Department of Transportation

It looks like the toll road funds are veto-proof —  hardwired into the Florida Department of Transportation’s long-term work plan, said David Cullen, lobbyist and budget analyst with the Sierra Club of Florida.

“For fiscal year ’20-21, $90 million is retained in the state transportation trust fund for M-CORES,” Cullen said.  “The governor can’t reappropriate it for a different purpose.”

The three M-CORES are a pet project of Senate President Bill Galvano, who secured legislation and initial funding for the toll roads in 2019, despite the Department of Transportation independently citing no need for them.

Lindsay Cross, government relations director for Florida Conservation Voters, said it is a shame to leave $90 million for unpopular, down-the-road projects intact while environmental projects that impact water quality suffered $83 million in budget vetoes.

“There’s a time and a place for long-range planning, but with M-CORES, it’s not based on documented need and it won’t have utility for years,” Cross said.

Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief added the governor’s veto of $83 million in environmental funding includes funds intended to upgrade failing wastewater systems that have caused sewage spills and contaminated Florida waterways.

The M-CORES projects are the Suncoast Connector (between Citrus and Jefferson counties), the Northern Turnpike Connection (from the northern terminus of Florida’s Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway), and the Southwest-Central Florida Conector, from Collier to Polk.

Katie Betta, Galvano’s communications chief, said the funds appropriated for M-CORES cannot be amended by the governor….