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Everglades plan clears the House

by John Kennedy | March 22nd, 2013

A measure aimed at enacting an $880 million Everglades plan cleared the Florida House 114-0 Friday, after the sugar industry and environmentalists reached a truce on the complex clean-up effort.

Conservation groups fought an earlier House proposal, claiming it favored sugar growers and putting the burden on South Florida taxpayers to build stormwater treatment and storage areas over the next decade to improve water quality across the region.

But negotiations between the two sides led to Friday’s compromise, which is expected to win Senate approval in coming days. Gov. Rick Scott has indicated he would sign the legislation.

“This is an accomplishment for all of us,” said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, sponsor of the measure (CS/HB 7065.

The legislation extends a $25-per-acre tax growers pay through 2026, which raises about $11 million annually for clean-up. The sugar industry had sought a two years’ shorter extension of the $25 standard before the rate begins to reduce. It reaches its lowest mark of $10-per-acre in 2036 — 20 years beyond when it was slated to kick-in under current law.

The measure would assure financing of the Everglades work: with $32 million annually coming from state dollars, $11 million from the sugar industry, and another $30 million from South Florida property taxpayers.

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