Budget conference: Money not there yet for ZooTampa, Florida Aquarium

Florida Panthers
Budget offers come in much lower than the original asks.

State money for the Florida Aquarium and ZooTampa, both located in Tampa, has not yet been agreed to, according to the latest committee chair budget offers in the House and Senate.

The House is offering $250,000 for a Florida Panther project at ZooTampa while the Senate’s offer doubles that at $500,000.

The House is also offering $250,000 to the Florida Aquarium for a coral reef research laboratory and visitors center while the Senate has an appropriation for the facility zeroed out.

ZooTampa asked for $1 million in an appropriations request this year. That funding would help pay for renovations and expansions to the zoo’s existing single panther habitat in order to house three non-releasable Florida Panthers and provide additional panther rehabilitation.

The Zoo received $200,000 from the state in last year’s budget for the same project.

The Florida Aquarium requested $1.5 million for a new lab aimed at increasing coral reefs in Florida waters.

“This new facility will triple the sexual reproduction of genetically diverse coral colonies at the Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach through cutting edge advancements in induced spawning,” the request reads.

Scientists and researchers from the Florida Aquarium will partner with universities and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the project.

Visitors will be able to observe the work being done in the laboratory and learn how they impact oceans.

Budget negotiators are tightening up the budget as they prepare for an anticipated economic slow down amid growing concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus. Budget chiefs are planning to include upwards of $300 million in reserves for virus response.

Budget officials expect negotiations to continue through the weekend with deals settled possibly Saturday, but more likely Sunday.

The budget, once brokered, has a three day cooling off period before being finalized ahead of the final hanky drop.

If budget negotiations wrap up on Sunday that would mean a final vote on the budget would not come until Wednesday as lawmakers are not meeting Tuesday due to Florida’s presidential preference primary.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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