Forever Florida, St. Johns proposals get Senate backing – Florida Politics (blog)
Measures that would double Gov. Rick Scott‘s spending request for the Florida Forever conservation program and earmark money to improve the St. Johns River continued to move easily through the Senate on Thursday.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously backed a proposal (SB 370) to designate $100 million a year for Florida Forever. Also, it approved a bill (SB 204) that would increase annual funding for springs projects from $50 million to $75 million and set aside $50 million a year for the restoration of the St. Johns River, its tributaries and the Keystone Heights lake region in North Florida.
Both proposals are sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will hear the bills next.
“Our state is known for a lot of things, but the character of the state, the true character of the state is defined by its rivers, it’s beaches, it’s springs,” Bradley said. “We have an obligation to make sure future generations enjoy those wonderful gifts we get to enjoy.”
Neither proposal has a companion bill in the House. Scott requested spending $50 million on Florida Forever as part of his proposed 2018-2019 budget released last month.
Money for both Senate bills would come from the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment that requires a portion of real-estate “documentary stamp” tax revenues to go toward land and water conservation, with the money funneled through the trust fund.
That portion of the documentary-stamp tax is expected to generate $862.2 million next fiscal year, according to an August estimate by state economists.
Lawmakers in the past have carved up part of the annual funding so at least $200