The Florida Senate’s environmental priorities, which include boosting funding for the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, also known as Florida Forever, along with funding for beaches, are kinks that still need to be fleshed out before Friday’s budget conference deadline.
But Rep. Ben Albritton, House chair of the environment and agriculture budget conference, seems optimistic.
“In this particular conference, [the Senate’s] first offer there’s a lot of blue and a lot of yellows, which means essentially we’ve agreed on a lot of things,” Albritton said Wednesday night in reference to the color-coded newly released Senate offer.
“We are very much moving in the same direction,” he added.
The original Senate budget — which was modified Wednesday as part of the negotiation process — allocated $100 million to Florida Forever, along with $50 million worth of non-recurring funds. An early review of the Senate’s first offer indicates the chamber has bumped the total transfer to Florida Forever to $200 million worth of non-recurring funds. Land acquisition programs administered by the Department of Environmental Protection reflect that boost in funding.
“Clearly Florida Forever is something we have to work on,” Albritton said. “We are significantly apart on that.”
He believes the bargaining will focus on allocations to beach projects and Florida Forever — both favored by the Senate — and agricultural spends, such as citrus canker claims. Those claims are funded in the House at $107 million and are not funded in the Senate’s offer.
Albritton said the Senate backed away from a $4 million spend on a ‘management best practices’ program for agriculture, bringing the two chambers’ budgets closer.
With regard to the Senate’s $50 million allocation for St. Johns River restorations and up to a $75 million allocation for springs restorations — priorities of Senate budget chief Rob Bradley — Albritton said those details are “second tier” issues to iron out.