The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee unveiled its fiscal year budget for 2021-22 topping out around $4.1 billion.
The budget is “slightly lower” than last year, according to Committee Chairwoman Rep. Josie Tomkow.
Highlights of this year’s budget include Everglades restoration and protection of Florida’s water resources.
Funding to improve water quality in the state was also a feature of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget proposal.
The House budget follows environmental legislative priorities set by Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson before the Session, including funding for Florida’s resilient coastline initiative to mitigate sea level rise.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday rolled out a $6.1 billion spending plan, that includes $786 million for Everglades restoration and water projects, which would be $161 million more than DeSantis requested.
The House budget includes $187 million for Everglades’ restoration through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The Senate had $171 million programmed for the same project.
The House budget also included $100 million for land acquisition through Florida Forever. The Senate plan includes half that. Florida Forever is a conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, which aims to conserve the state’s natural and cultural heritage. It’s the largest public land acquisition program of its kind in the United States. The House plan would fund the program at the same level it received in the current budget while the Senate proposal matches DeSantis’ $50 million ask.
The House budget also includes more than $200 million for local governments to fund wastewater treatment plants.
The House budget differs from the Senate for citrus protection and research funding. The House has a little over $10 million planned for those projects. Additionally, the House reduced citrus marketing budgets.
The Senate proposal, meanwhile, includes $17.7 million for citrus protection and research, with another $12.5 million to help the citrus industry market orange juice during the COVID-19 pandemic, to keep sales hearty as they have been with more people staying home.
“We got a bump on orange juice consumption because of COVID,” Albritton said. “But the way that the industry views that is that that won’t stick around forever. So, what we have to do is, we have to invest resources, invest funds to make sure that orange juice and citrus products with their Vitamin C and their disease-fighting capabilities, they are front of mind for the consumer.”
Budget cuts in the House proposal came in the form of a 6% reduction across all agencies. The chair indicated these would not be recurring budget cuts.
The House budget proposal also reduces the Florida Agricultural Promotion campaign, recurring appropriations projects, current year reversions and reduces the excess budget authority by $3.2 million.
Content from The News Service of Florida was used in this report.