As he heads into his final year as governor and a likely bid for the U.S. Senate, Gov. Rick Scott Monday proposed spending $1.7 billion in next year’s budget on protecting Florida’s environment. That would mark a $220 million spending increase over the current year.
Scott released his environmental budget proposal at a news conference Monday afternoon at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples.
“People from across the world come to Florida because of our state’s beautiful natural treasures,” Scott said. ”To make sure our state remains beautiful for generations to come, I am proud to announce today that my recommended budget will include $1.7 billion to protect and preserve Florida’s environment.”
Scott is calling for $55 million in spending to protect Florida springs and another $100 on beach restoration. His plan also calls for $50 million to be spent on state parks.
The governor also wants to provide $355 million for Everglades restoration and another $50 for Florida Forever, a program designed to preserve environmentally sensitive land across the state. Conservationists have blamed state leaders of not providing enough funding for the program in recent years.
“Our natural treasures are so important to Florida’s economy and tourism industry and the many families that rely on them,” Scott added. “I look forward to working with the Legislature during the upcoming session on these strategic investments to help preserve our environment for Florida’s children, future residents and visitors.”
But one of the candidates who is running to succeed Scott as governor next year, calls Scott “a true Election Year Environmentalist.”
“He promised that he’d request $150 million for Florida Forever each year in his second term — and we’re on Year #7 of his Administration and he’s now promising only $50 million,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said in a written statement. “The Governor is most prone to act on issues like this when he’s about to see his name on the ballot, and this is no different. Delivering one-third of a promise is not a promise kept.”
The Legislature will consider the Scott’s environmental spending proposals when lawmakers begin their regular session in January.