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Supporters of state parks tell Rick Scott: 'Veto this bad budget'

TubingAnother statewide advocacy group wants Gov. Rick Scott to reject the state budget and order the Florida Legislature back to work. Supporters of state parks asked Scott to "veto this bad budget" passed two weeks ago, accusing lawmakers of turning their backs on land conservation and park protection.

In a release, the Friends of Florida State Parks called the 2017 session "a huge disappointment for our environment and specifically our state parks. Not only did the Legislature zero out dollars for any land acquisitions in Florida Forever, but it also completely rebuffed efforts by Gov. Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection to fully fund the land management requests of DEP."

The group noted that just three years ago, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 to protect and preserve the state's sensitive natural environment.

“Our award-winning state parks are one of Florida’s main economic drivers,” said Paula Russo, president of the Friends of Florida State Parks. "More people visit state parks annually than visit the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. They spend money and pay sales taxes. This budget cut is incomprehensible, especially in light of the Legislature’s previous two-year commitment to enhanced land management dollars. Zeroing out Florida Forever is a slap in the face to Florida voters. We strongly urge Governor Scott to veto the entire budget, call the Legislature back and have them address these glaring deficiencies.”

Russo said the cut to DEP's land management program is especially unwise in a year when wildfires have burned across more than 126,000 acres in Florida.

Florida Conservation Voters has noted that the Legislature's overall cuts to environmental spending in five separate programs total $372.5 million from last year. The St. Petersburg-based advocacy group Progress Florida and the League of Women Voters of Florida have also called on Scott to veto the entire budget, which has not happened since former Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed it in 1992.

The budget (SB 2500) passed the Senate, 34-4, and the House, 98-14. Of the 18 lawmakers who voted against the budget, 16 are Democrats and two are Republicans: Reps. Eric Eisnaugle and Jay Fant.