Florida Forever, the state program to acquire environmentally sensitive lands, is poised for stronger funding than the House originally stipulated.
The Senate initially proposed slotting $125 million to acquire environmentally sensitive lands; the House, just $20 million.
Rep. Travis Cummings, the House Appropriations Chair, told reporters on Saturday that progress had been made.
“The Governor was at $120, the Senate at $125 million, we were at $20,” Cummings said.
“We’re making substantial progress to get much closer to where the Senate is at, frankly,” he added.
That progress wasn’t reflected in the early sheets from the joint conference committee that deals with environmental issues, however.
“$100 million for Florida Forever,” Sen. Debbie Mayfield said in Saturday’s first meeting, including “$67 million for DEP land acquisition and $10 million for Florida Community Trust.”
Mayfield also noted water quality and environmental funding exceeds the Governor’s requested $625 million.
Everglades restoration and water resources, at $644 million, is in line with the House and about $20 million more than the Governor’s proposal.
Last year’s budget saw the Senate push for $100 million for Florida Forever, but the appropriation was just $33 million.
These numbers are a small fraction of the money the program got in years gone by.
Florida Forever enjoyed pre-2009 funding levels of $300 million a year.
However, what is clear is that even if funding doesn’t get to that level this year, there will be funds to work with at least through the next fiscal year.