Work being done on Amendment 1, water projects spending, Sen. Tom Lee says

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There has been no action publicly in the Legislature this week on Amendment 1 spending or bills dealing with water policy but those issues are being worked on, Sen. Tom Lee, the Senate’s chief budget writer, said Wednesday.

Amendment 1 is the water and land conservation funding initiative approved by voters in November. The measure is expected to provide almost $740 million a year for programs in the 2014-15 state budget.

With the House and Senate at a budget impasse over Medicaid expansion, Lee acknowledged to reporters that work also is going on with other budget policy issues, including Amendment 1.

The Senate also is working on a water bill, SB 918, which is expected to provide money for water projects. The House proposed spending plan has $80.6 million allocated toward water projects that would be decided during budget negotiations with the Senate.

Lee, a Republican from Brandon, said the Legislature needs to do a better job of crafting policy that applies science to any such deals.

“This is a brand new pot of money,” Lee said of Amendment 1. “It’s not a piggy bank.”

“We don’t want to blow it on a bunch of projects that might be the priority today and wake up and recognize that we didn’t get a good bang for our buck.

“So we want to make sure the science is involved, we want to make sure there is a vetting process for these projects and that we’re scrubbing these deals so that the state is getting the best bang for its buck,” he said. “So we’re working hard on all these right now.”

With two and a half weeks left in the 2015 Legislative Session, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Republican from Merritt Island, said the Legislature seems to be heading toward a special session with the divide over the budget and health care spending.

“We feel very secure with our position on this issue,” Crisafulli said.

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