Despite the fact that a Senate budget draft distributed on Wednesday includes no money for either Everglades restoration or the Florida Forever program, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander says he is “seriously considering” matching the House’s line item for Everglades restoration.
The Florida House passed its proposed budget yesterday, in a 79-38 vote. It includes $30 million for Everglades restoration, but nothing for Florida Forever, the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program that has long been a top environmental priority. Gov. Rick Scott had requested $15 million for Florida Forever and $40 million for Everglades restoration in his proposed budget.
Alexander’s remarks come after some lawmakers expressed concern about the lack of Everglades funding in the Senate’s budget proposal.
“We’re looking at it. We’re trying to figure out if we can afford it this year,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said, adding that he’s supported that and the Florida Forever land-buying program for his 14 years in the legislature soon coming to an end. “So it’s something I’d love to see us be able to do. I would hope we’d be able to eventually get there…If we can do something it won’t be a lot, but we’d certainly like to provide some funding for preservation of Florida’s ecological needs.”
Alexander said he doesn’t foresee much trouble reconciling the two spending plans. The Senate’s proposal includes deeper health and human services, more spending on schools and road projects and dips into state universities’ reserves.
“There aren’t a lot of differences. It should be fairly easy to get to something we both can agree to,” Alexander said.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos has said he expects his chamber to wrap up its budget by next week.