Governor Ron DeSantis’ Focus on Florida’s Future Budget Highlights Environmental Priorities for Fiscal Year 2024-2025

BY STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

On Dec. 5, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his Focus on Florida’s Future budget proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024–2025, a $114.4 billion ask of the Florida Legislature, which meets from Jan. 9 to March 8.

The Governor’s news release states that the proposed budget is more than $4.6 billion less than the current year budget, with $16.3 billion in reserves, leaving ample resources for any unforeseen economic issues. Florida has experienced record success over the last five years, ranking No. 1 in education, net in-migration, entrepreneurship, and new business formations, with 2.7 million new businesses formed since 2019. The Governor’s budget also continues Florida’s record as the nation-leading example of success through fiscal conservatism by paying down an additional $455 million in debt and providing $1.1 billion in tax relief.

“Success is not something that is handed to a state as large as Florida, it requires a steadfast commitment to supporting families at every step,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “By expanding workforce education for high-demand jobs, providing family-first tax relief, ensuring that Florida’s students can access a quality education that fits their needs, investing in resilient infrastructure and putting conservative principles at the forefront of every decision, we have delivered time and again for our residents. Florida’s success is proof positive that when you establish a foundation of governing on conservative principles and protect the freedom of your residents, success will follow. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish over the next year.”

Florida’s natural resources are directly tied to the economic resilience of the state and provide important defenses against natural disasters such as hurricanes. Florida has made record investments in protecting our natural resources and conserving the Florida way of life and Governor DeSantis continues this commitment in the Focus on Florida’s Future Budget, according to the release.

During Governor DeSantis’ first term as Governor, he signed record investments to protect Florida’s Everglades and support water quality, investing a record $3.3 billion. At the start of his second term, he called for a historic $3.5 billion investment over the next four years. The Governor’s budget recommends $1.1 billion for Everglades restoration and water quality, bringing the total investment during the Governor’s second term to $2.8 billion. This investment includes $745 million for Everglades restoration projects:

  • $550 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
  • $64 million for the EAA Reservoir to continue the momentum of this critical project to reduce harmful discharges and help send more clean water south of the Everglades.
  • $50 million is included for specific project components designed to achieve the greatest reductions in harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries.
  • $81.5 million is included for the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.
  • $3 million for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to remove pythons from the Everglades.

To continue protecting Florida’s water quality and supply, the Governor is recommending $330 million for targeted water quality improvements to achieve significant, meaningful and measurable nutrient reductions in key waterbodies. This includes:

  • $135 million for the expanded Water Quality Improvement Grant Program for projects to construct, upgrade or expand wastewater facilities, including septic to sewer conversions, stormwater management projects and agricultural nutrient reduction projects.
  • $100 million for the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Protection Program for priority projects to improve water quality in the IRL, as called for in Executive Order 23-06.
  • $50 million to accelerate projects to meet scientific nutrient reduction goals, called Total Maximum Daily Loads.
  • $20 million for critical infrastructure including wastewater and stormwater projects that address water quality impairments and coral reef restoration in Biscayne Bay.
  • $25 million for water quality improvements in the Caloosahatchee River watershed.

Additional water quality investments include $50 million to restore Florida’s world-renowned springs and for land acquisition to protect springsheds as well as more than $55 million to improve water quality and combat the impacts of harmful algal blooms, including blue-green algae and red tide. The Focus on Florida’s Future Budget includes $80 million for the Alternative Water Supply Grant Program to help communities plan for and implement vital conservation, reuse and other alternative water supply projects.

To support conservation lands and to protect the great outdoors for generations of Floridians to enjoy, the Governor’s budget invests $50 million in Florida’s State Parks for infrastructure improvements and resource management with the goal of maintaining Florida’s world class parks which have won the National Gold Medal a record four times. The proposed budget also includes more than $125 million to protect Florida’s conservation lands and waterways to ensure Florida’s prized properties are accessible for future generations of Florida families. This funding includes $100 million for the Florida Forever Program, the state’s blueprint for conserving Florida’s natural and recreation lands, including those located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Florida is home to 1,300 miles of coastline which plays an important role in Florida’s economy and quality of life, attracting visitors from across the world and providing an invaluable defense against hurricanes. The Governor’s budget includes $50 million in beach nourishment funding to bolster our shorelines. Additionally, the Governor is recommending $22.8 million for coral reef protection and restoration, including $11.3 million to continue Florida’s Coral Reef Restoration and Recovery Initiative established in Executive Order 23-06, to restore 25 percent of Florida’s Coral Reef by 2050.

The Governor’s budget also prioritizes the protection of Florida’s working agricultural lands and family farms, providing an annual appropriation of $100 million to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program to enter into perpetual conservation easements. In order to preserve Florida’s iconic citrus industry, the budget invests more than $20 million for citrus research and the Citrus Health Response Program. This includes $5 million for research and additional advertising by the Department of Citrus.

To further protect Florida’s rural areas and communities surrounded by Florida’s beautiful forests, the Governor’s budget provides $4 million to support the replanting of trees and timber impacted by hurricanes and natural disasters, in addition to investing over $30 million in Florida’s efforts to effectively combat wildfires including equipment, road and bridge maintenance and Wildfire Protection and State Forest operations.

The Focus on Florida’s Future Budget also includes $211 million for the cleanup of contaminated sites with a focus on promoting redevelopment of these areas once cleanup has been completed.

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