The state’s five water management districts have slashed their budgets by more than $700 million – about 40 percent – but Gov. Rick Scott, who initiated the cuts, wants more.
After the water management districts fired employees, cut benefits and put the brakes on land purchases, Scott still wants another $2.4 million in paycuts and benefit reductions.
Scott, however, signed off on the South Florida Water Management District’s $571 million budget – more than 47 percent than the current year’s – without asking for further cuts.
The agency saved more than $100 million by doing away with more than 270 jobs, cutting benefits, canceling contracts and grounding flight operations.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard announced the cuts at a press conference this morning, flanked by representatives of each of the state’s five water management districts.
Gov. Rick Scott ordered the cuts to force the districts to focus on their “core mission resonsibilities” of water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural system protection, Vinyard said.
The revised budgets are a “critical first step in ensuring the water management districts focus on their core environmental mission,” he added.
The shrunken spending by the districts goes far beyond the $210 million in cuts lawmakers ordered through property tax reductions.
South Florida Water Management District executive director Melissa Meeker, who joined Vinyard this morning, said her agency remains committed to Everglades cleanup and other projects underway.
“You will not see a bump in the road from the South Water Management District,” she said.
But environmentalists complained that the cuts will undercut the state’s commitment to protecting Florida waters.
“The deep cuts to the state’s water management districts undermine years of progress in protecting Florida’s water resources,” Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper said in a statement.”The cuts serve only the purpose of allowing politicians to claim tax cuts. The agencies involved and the Governor are not being completely candid in telling the public how these cuts will affect water supply, environmental protection and Everglades restoration.”