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Arthenia Joyner filing budget amendment to boost land-buying

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State Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, the Senate Democratic leader, is filing a budget amendment to redirect $80 million toward the Florida Forever land-buying program and away from other purposes she said are not consistent with Amendment 1.

Approved by 75 percent of voters in November, Amendment 1 is supposed to direct $742 million toward water and land conservation programs in the 2015-16 state budget.

The Senate budget bill filed Friday provides $2 million for Florida Forever along with $20 million for land-buying for Kissimmee River restoration.

“When 75 percent of Floridians resoundingly vote for environmental protection, the Legislature is obliged to listen,” Joyner said. “But it’s apparent from the bill before us today that the Legislature is doing everything but listen.”

The current state budget provided $12.5 million for the Florida Forever program plus $40 million from the possible sale of non-conservation land. Another $5 million was provided through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for conservation easements through the Rural and Family Lands Protection.

A Senate Democratic office press release said the Amendment 1 money would be “clawed back” from such areas as bridge and road repair ($4 million), restroom and parking lot upgrades ($15 million) and highway construction ($25 million). Those were never intended to be paid for under Amendment 1, Senate Democrats said.

“My amendment is the reminder, on behalf of the 4.2 million voters who voted ‘Yes,’ that this proposed spending plan is not what they intended.”

Last week, state Sen. Alan Hays, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, suggested that the state already owns enough land with 9.4 million acres under federal, state and local conservation ownership. Hays is a Republican from Umatilla.

In response, Florida’s Water & Land Legacy, the Amendment 1 sponsoring committee, on Monday tweeted in response that the 4.2 million voters who supported Amendment 1 disagreed with Hays. They provided phone numbers for people to call Hays and other key legislators.

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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