Governor Proposes Cuts To State Agency That Would Oversee New Conservation Effort
Florida lawmakers heard details about Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget Wednesday, including what the governor plans to spend on the environment.
The budget cuts $28 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and that’s drawing criticism from environmentalists.
Scott’s budget proposal comes as Florida initiates a 20-year, $22-billion land and water conservation effort.
Economist Hank Fishkind says the governor's proposed cuts target the state agency tasked with overseeing Amendment 1 projects.
"That's precisely the problem, that the proposal would simply eliminate currently vacant positions. But that doesn't reduce the mission of the agency. The mission of the agency is going to increase, and the governor is reducing the manpower to conduct that mission."
The budget puts most of a $1 billion surplus toward tax cuts. It trims 155 positions from the Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP says nearly all of the positions already are vacant or are expected to become vacant by the end of the fiscal year.
In a statement a spokeswoman says the governor's proposal goes beyond Amendment 1's requirements by putting $773 million toward the Everglades, springs and land acquisition and management.
But former DEP attorney Chris Byrd says the cuts likely will slow Amendment 1's implementation.
"The files on their desk will begin to stack a bit higher, and it seems that with this increase of work it's not the time to be cutting staff."
Legislators will take up the governor's budget proposal when they reconvene next month.