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Guest Opinion: Governor’s $9B budget includes wins, losses for environment

By Staff | Jul 22, 2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered a $92.2 billion budget and a $1 billion veto list two weeks ago, one day before the beginning of the fiscal year which started on July 1. The veto list was a reaction, in part, due to the financial uncertainty the state will navigate as COVID-19 impacts state revenues.

The $100 million Florida Forever land acquisition line item remained intact. Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation members and land acquisition advocates across the state can be pleased with their role in preserving this funding as the governor’s office received thousands of phone calls and e-mails in support of Florida Forever. The effort to fund Florida Forever this session was a prime example of what can be accomplished when advocates work together.

Another example of our collective voices being heard in Tallahassee was the surprise veto of the anti-growth management legislation, Senate Bill 410. The SCCF joined forces with the lead taken by 1000 Friends of Florida and several other advocacy groups to call for the veto of this bad bill. We thank the governor for this significant veto as it was only one of three vetoed bills out of a total of 191 bills passed by the Legislature this session.

Of course, they weren’t all wins for the environment. The controversial M-CORES toll roads were supported both through legislative bills that encourage development through rural areas (SB 7018, State Infrastructure) and through approval of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) five-year plan. The FDOT budget opaquely included $117 million this year for M-CORES planning and consultants for a total of $738 million over the next five years.

That amount does not include the actual cost of building the roads, which will be tens of billions or more. The fight to defeat these unnecessary toll roads will continue.

There were 26 bills that had not yet been presented to the governor, including the Shark Fin bill, SB 680. These bills were not tied to funding required at the start of the fiscal year and will be effective upon becoming law. The governor is expected to sign the remaining bills in the coming weeks.

For a legislative summary on the bills followed by the SCCF this year and for an update on any proposed special session related to COVID-19, check in with our updated 2020 Legislative Tracker at www.sccf.org/our-work/natural-resource-policy.

Founded in 1967, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed.