Gov. Rick Scott proposed spending $130 million on Everglades restoration Wednesday, almost doubling what the state is currently putting into water treatment and other projects across South and Central Florida.
The Republican governor also managed to fire a shot at the Obama administration, for reducing an $80 million expenditure on the Everglades to $46 million this year — saying it’s the lowest amount spent by the federal government in two decades on the fabled river of grass.
But he said the state is doing its share.
“We’ve made a lot of progress on the Everglades,” Scott said Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting in Kissimmee.
Scott’s proposal would sharply increase the $70 million currently spent on Everglades work. He announced the budget recommendation following an update on work currently going on in the region made by state and federal officials and representatives of environmental groups.
Dan Kimball, supervisor of Everglades National Park, told Scott and the Cabinet the wide-ranging efforts are aimed at a seemingly simple goal.
“We will ensure that the water entering the Everglades is clean,” Kimball said.
About $30 million of the money recommended Wednesday by Scott will go toward continuing work on a bridge along the Tamiami Trail. The bridge will help fix a road that has acted for decades as a dam, blocking the flow of fresh water to the southern Everglades and help ease water flowing from Lake Okeechobee that has fouled the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Kimball said the federal government will match the state’s three-year, $90 million commitment to the Tamiami Trail work. Eric Eikenberg, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, said the project “will uncork the southern end of the Everglades,” and improve the entire system.
On the northern end of the Everglades, Scott’s budget proposal also would continue the state’s 25-year effort to restore the Kissimmee River basin and continue water storage and treatment projects from the Lake Okeechobee area to South Miami-Dade County.
Scott’s Everglades announcement came only a day after he unveiled plans to increase spending on restoring Florida’s springs. Scott said he wants to spend $55 million on the work this election year, up from $10 million currently.
As a first-year governor in 2011, Scott dramatically cut property taxes going to water management districts – forcing wholesale layoffs and limiting state oversight. The same year, he signed into law legislation that eliminated most of the state’s 25-year-old growth management laws.
But Scott now defends his environmental record, citing the Everglades commitment as a key example.
Scott is helped this year by a budget surplus of about $1.1 billion and has already proposed increases in transportation and tourism, and a pledge to reduce taxes and fees by $500 million. He is expected to unveil his full budget proposal to the Legislature next week.