Governor Ron DeSantis has signed Florida’s annual budget, but not without wielding his veto pen.
The good news: Florida Forever, Everglades Restoration, and several other key conservation programs are safe thanks to the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1) and Conservation Voters like you!
This is Amendment 1 in action. Approved by 75% of voters in 2014, the amendment was intended to protect conservation funding even during financial downturns. By creating a steady stream of dedicated funding to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, voters acted to protect our natural resources, no matter what unforeseen crises come our way. Voters had the insight to know that while hard times do eventually pass, the need to protect our water and land remains. Thank you!
But we also have bad news: In total, Gov. Ron DeSantis cut environmental spending by nearly $83 million.
Using our Environmental Budget Tracker, FCV took a deep dive into this week’s 2020-2021 budget cuts. Let’s take a high-level look:
Our water took the biggest hit: $60 million in cuts to wastewater infrastructure, local grants and aids, and other statewide water quality projects.
Gov. DeSantis cut $48.6 million in water projects that directly help local governments treat stormwater and wastewater and reduce flooding. This is significant because protecting our water requires investments and cooperation at all levels of government.
Fixing our water woes was a campaign promise of DeSantis, yet we still lack strong legislation and funding commitments to accomplish that. SB712 – known as the “Clean Waterways Act” is likely to be signed today. It was intended to fix Florida’s water quality problems. However, as we’ve noted in our legislative report, the bill was significantly watered down during the legislative process and the policies are not sufficient to improve the water quality in our springs, rivers, lakes, and coastal areas.
The cuts to local water quality projects may further hamstring communities that are struggling to pay for needed infrastructure improvements. That means that local residents may have to shoulder a bigger portion or that projects could be delayed until more funding can be secured. We know that there is no time to wait and we need immediate action to protect our water.
Transportation: $37.2 million cut from local projects. Toll Roads funding spared.
Significant funding remains in the transportation budget and, at $9.2 billion, it represents about 10% of this year’s budget. However, cuts to smaller locally-driven projects can impact the safety and quality of roads and other transportation infrastructure.
Despite the significant need to invest in existing infrastructure, funding for the disastrous M-CORES projects was saved. Senate Bill 7068 which created the M-CORES project in 2019, set aside $45 million in the 2019/20 budget and $90 million in this year’s budget for planning and construction for the Roads to Ruin. This money is transferred to the State Transportation Trust Fund and is expected to grow each year, with annual investments topping $100 million beginning in next year’s budget. Since there is not an individual line-item for M-CORES, vetoing this behemoth project is intentionally difficult. The estimated price tag to build 330 new miles of toll roads in Florida could top $20 billion.
Corporate tax-cuts for Florida’s wealthiest businesses, totaling $543 million, survived the red pen.
Democratic lawmakers sought unsuccessfully to pare down these special-interest giveaways during the legislative session. To see them survive the budget cuts, along with funding for the toll roads, demonstrates that the Governor’s priorities do not align with everyday Floridians.
The bottom line: Gov. DeSantis’ budget reflects his priorities. His budget aims to build roads that no one wants while failing to improve our water. All while giving away over $543 million to corporate interests.
To take a closer look, dive into FCV’s Environmental Budget Tracker on our website.