FLORIDA LAWMAKERS PUSH TO INCREASE EVERGLADES RESTORATION FUNDING
WASHINGTON — Florida lawmakers are continuing to push for more money to restore the Everglades after less money was budgeted for the project than what was requested.
- Lawmakers want $200 million
- President Trump's budget called for less than $70 million
- Florida delegation now looking to Congress to make up difference
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After the President made a vague promise last week to increase funding for the Everglades during a trip to Lake Okeechobee, members of Congress are setting their sights on an alternative option in case he doesn’t follow through.
“We want to focus on appropriations for the Everglades, how we’ve used the money that they’ve given us and how we intend to use more money in the future,” said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19th District).
Rooney said he and other Florida lawmakers personally lobbied the President and administration officials to do more for the Everglades during his tour of Lake Okeechobee.
“Hopefully we made a good enough argument for the need for a couple of hundred more to build out the EAA reservoir,” he said.
WHO WILL MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE?
The reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is intended to help lake levels by slowing the releases into the Caloosahatchee and Saint Lucie Rivers. Lawmakers want $200 million in federal funds for Everglades restoration, but President Trump’s budget called for less than $70 million.
“I’m also going to be aggressive and say I want the 200 million bucks,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) when speaking to reporters in Washington last week.
“The beauty of it is that it is Congress that develops the budget, not the president,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D-9th District).
The Florida delegation is now looking to their colleagues in Congress to pick up the slack.
“I’ve also been making the same argument with the appropriations leaders in the House,” Rooney explained.
YEARS OF SHORTFALLS
Rooney and 19 others sent a letter to those decision makers asking for the “highest possible funding levels” for Everglades restoration. They said without the appropriate funding, there will be serious consequences.
“We are going to have worse and worse red tides that will affect our quality of life, our economy and our environment. We have got to get this done sooner rather than later,” Soto said.
For years both the president and Congress’ restoration efforts have fallen short of requests from the Florida delegation. However, lawmakers say there’s reason to be optimistic after the federal government approved funding to repair the Herbert Hoover dike last year.
“We went for years just getting scraps, now we have at least $1.1 billion, that’s a good start,” Rooney said.
Over the past two years, Congress has approved more money than the White House’s original request for Everglades funding. According to Capitol Hill aides, they believe this year will likely be the same.
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