Water Turkeys: Despite Increased Funding for Florida’s Water Resources and the Creation of New Competitive Grants Processes, Local Member Earmarks are Proliferating
In 2020, the Governor and Legislature created the Wastewater Grant Program, which has received funding of $741 million. They also created the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help ensure Florida’s coastal communities are prepared for the impacts of flooding and sea-level rise. In 2021, the Resilient Florida Grant Program, with a dedicated source of funding, was created to help local governments with resiliency projects and planning. Despite all this additional funding made available by the Legislature through both new and established grant programs, scores of member requests for local water and resiliency projects also appear in the budget without going through a grant review process by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Florida TaxWatch supported the Governor’s water restoration and resiliency funding recommendations.
In a 2020 report, we highlighted the many environmental, economic, health, and recreational benefits this investment can provide to the public. Another Florida TaxWatch report examined the effects of climate change and sea level rise on each sector of Florida’s economy, and recommended ways to mitigate those impacts. Florida TaxWatch also supports the integrity of the state budget process. Each year, in our Budget Turkey Watch report, we identify appropriations that circumvent proper review, transparency, and accountability standards. The report is presented to the Governor for inclusion in his or her budget review and veto considerations. Waterrelated member projects have been a focus of that report.
This report examines the various avenues for local funding assistance that currently exist, how the Legislature funds water projects requested by members, and makes recommendations to improve the process.