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How will Will Robinson or Tracy Pratt fund Florida Forever?

Both candidates running in Florida House District 71 say the state must properly fund Florida Forever, but would raid different programs to pay for it.

Democrat Tracy Pratt says private prisons should pay the price for preserving more land. Republican Will Robinson would gut Enterprise Florida to elevate the environment.

The topic came up at a Tiger Bay forum in Sarasota in Thursday, where the House candidates both stressed their environmental credentials.

“I’m not an election year environmentalists,” said Pratt. “If we can’t address our environmental problems we’re in some serious trouble.”

Robinson stressed a long commitment to the land as well, noting his family donated the property for the Robinson Preserve in Sarasota.

“I think that’s something that irritates voters a lot,” he said. “And I hear it on the campaign trail. We vote on stuff, and then you guys in Tallahasee or you girls in Tallahassee do different things.”

Both noted that when voters approved Amendment 1 by an overwhelming majority. Some 75 percent of voters statewide approved the measure in 2014. But lawmakers haven’t held to that. This year, the Legislature budgeted $101 million for Florida Forever, half what the Senate proposed. The year before, no money made the final cut.

But when Tiger Bay moderator Morgan Bentley asked the candidates how to pay for the program, the two offered different solutions.

Robinson said he sees funding that can be pulled from business incentive funding still.

“I’m not a big believer in turning over government handouts to companies,” he said.

Robinson expressed particular irritation that Florida funded incentives to lure Wawa gas stations here.

“Wawa is a great company, but it’s not fair we paid x millions of dollars for one to come down here and compete across the street from a Racetrac,” he said.

Pratt, a champion for criminal justice reform, said she sees savings in slashing the prison industrial complex.

“The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and Florida is in the top 10,” she said. “We incarcerate people at a higher rate to the tune of $20,000 per person per year.”

Meanwhile, she said, the state cuts opioid funding and leaves people with no support to cycle in and out of the system.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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