Florida Legislature Invests Billions in the Environment

By PATRICK GILLESPIE

Lawmakers during the 2024 Legislative Session approved more than half a billion dollars toward environmental funding, sending a $117 billion state budget to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

The biggest pot of money for the environment came through legislation carried by Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. James Buchanan. Their bills, which faced little resistance throughout the legislative process, aim to divert nearly all of the 2021 Gaming Compact proceeds to environmental projects.

The compact is an agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which provides the Tribe with partial, but substantial exclusivity for specified gaming activities in Florida. There is a guaranteed minimum payment of $2.5 billion for the first five years and not less than $400 million annually. The agreement lasts 30 years.

“Through our Compact to Conserve, the Florida Wildlife Corridor will one day be our Central Park, as we preserve our state’s beauty for future generations to enjoy,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo after the annual 60-day session ended on March 9.

“We’ve dedicated additional resources to our environment through the Seminole Compact monies, where everyone one of those dollars will be preserved for land conservation, for resiliency, for state land management and for water quality for generations to come,” said Speaker of the House Paul Renner. “We need it.”

environmental funding

Some key highlights:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received nearly $10 billion, with much of it dedicated to staff and operational costs and ongoing projects. Key highlights include the gaming funding, which totals $400 million for fiscal year 2024-25, dedicated to land acquisition, land management, resiliency, and water quality improvements.

Additional projects:

  • Water quality improvements: $1.7B
    • Water projects: $410.4M
    • Wastewater grant program: $135M
    • C-51 Reservoir: $100M
    • Indian River Lagoon: $75M
    • Alternative water supply: $55M
    • Springs restoration: $55M
  • Flood and sea level rise: $125M
  • Land acquisition: $528.6M
  • Petroleum tank cleanup: $220M
  • Water infrastructure improvements: $178.3M
  • Beach Management: $50M
  • Everglades restoration and South Florida Water Management District operations: $702M

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also benefitted from compact funding. The department received funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, wildfire suppression equipment, reforestation, Citrus Canker eradication judgements, citrus protection and research, agriculture projects, a large office complex expansion investment, among other programs.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received funding to bolster its law enforcement operations, restore wildlife habitat, its artificial reef program, wildlife management area improvements and other projects.

Lawmakers concluded their 60-day annual legislative session on March 9.

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