Local

Legislature pencils $13.3 million for Keys into budget

Canal restoration (Key Largo project seen here in 2015) could be among projects funded by state money allocated under the Florida Keys Stewardship Act.
Canal restoration (Key Largo project seen here in 2015) could be among projects funded by state money allocated under the Florida Keys Stewardship Act. Keynoter file

An $83 billion state budget package given preliminary approval Wednesday includes $13.3 million for Florida Keys environmental projects, state Rep. Holly Raschein said.

“It was an amazing day for Monroe County,” Raschein (R-Key Largo) said after leaders of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives reached an accord on the 2017-2018 budget. “We were able to bring it in for a landing.”

Nothing is finalized until the Florida Legislature casts its final vote Monday, and Gov. Rick Scott decides on possible possible vetoes.

But this week, the Florida Keys Stewardship Act sponsored by Raschein last year received a new allocation of $13.3 million that will be shared among the unincorporated county and Keys municipalities.

“We didn’t get the $20 million we were working on so that’s a little disappointing,” County Administrator Roman Gastesi said Friday. “Right now I’m waiting to see how we compare relative to what other areas got.”

If the Florida Keys allocation stands, Monroe County municipalities and the county would split the water projects funding — things like wastewater treatment, stormwater runoff and canal restoration are eligible — according to an interlocal agreement signed in 2013.

Monroe County would decide how to spend about $4 million (30 percent of the $13.3 million) while Marathon and Islamorada each would receive about $2.3 million (17.5 percent each)

The Key Largo Wastewater District would be allocated 25 percent, or $3.3 million, and Key West expects to receive $1 million.

State money for Keys projects was uncertain due to final negotiations that took place in closed meetings between legislative leaders who held differing priorities. In the end, negotiators agreed to evenly split a pot of environmental money among the Keys, statewide beach restoration and the St. John’s River.

“This definitely was seen as a priority for [state Sen. Anitere Flores] and myself, and we went to bat for it,” Raschein said.

The budget still must receive formal approval on a vote Monday. The Legislature was scheduled to adjourn its 2017 session Friday but the extended budget talks will require at least one more day of votes.

Scott has signaled he is not pleased with budgets allocated for state business-promotion agencies and the lack of money for rebuilding the Lake Okeechobee dike. Scott has not said whether his concerns would cause him to veto the overall $83 billion budget.

No money was allocated for Florida Forever, a conservation program to buy sensitive lands. The Florida Keys have been a focus of the Florida Forever program.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

  Comments