Wind tunnel, oysters, beef promotion spice up budget
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state's new $82.3 billion budget, approved by lawmakers Friday, isn't all about the big expenses of government, such as education, health care, law enforcement and transportation.
Throughout the record spending plan are hundreds of local and agency projects that some lawmakers argued will help the economy or Florida residents. Now, Gov. Rick Scott will use his veto pen to decide which projects survive in the budget that takes effect July 1.
Here are examples of some of the projects and programs tucked into the budget:
FAIRS AND RODEOS: The budget includes a $4.3 million line item for agricultural promotion, with $670,000 for the Central Florida Fair, $500,000 for the Hendry County Fair and Livestock Show, $500,000 for the Manatee River Fair Association, and $400,000 for the Walton County Fair Association. A separate grant would provide $250,000 for renovations of the Hendry County Fairgrounds Rodeo Complex.
FELON WATCH: The budget includes $300,000 for the Department of Corrections to contract with the University of Florida to develop a plan for the state to transfer the community supervision of felony offenders to county sheriffs. The university researchers will also have to determine, by Nov. 1, the cost to implement the county sheriff-based probation system
Another $500,000 from the same pot would go to the Home Builders Institute to provide certification, pre-apprenticeships and job-placement services to people under community corrections supervision.
PALM BEACH GUN RANGE: This wasn't the most gun-friendly legislative session of the Scott years, but lawmakers did tuck $3.09 million into the spending plan for a shooting park in northern Palm Beach County.
Lawmakers also agreed to pump $3.2 million into the facility in 2015 to get work underway. Once completed, the facility, on 150 acres in the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, will provide ranges for rifle and pistol shooting, a trap and skeet shooting area and concessions.
EAT BEEF, AND GATORS: The budget includes $2 million to "strengthen the market position of Florida's cattle industry in this state and in the nation."
Another $150,000 would go to the Department of Agriculture's alligator marketing.Â Scott vetoed the line item as budget fat his first year in office, but has since backed off after it was pointed out that the marketing money is paid by alligator farmers.
SAVE THE OYSTERS: With the oyster industry struggling in Northwest Florida, the Wakulla Environmental Institute is slated to get $250,000 for oyster cultch material research. According to the budget, the money is intended to determine what material "is most effective for spat set and oyster population revitalization."
MEASURING TURBULENCE: The budget includes $1 million to help Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach complete a large-scale wind tunnel projected to cost nearly $28 million. The school received $9 million in 2013 from the state, as the tunnel is expected to be used in partnership with aerospace manufacturing companies to test space vehicles, airplane parts and maybe even race cars --- this is Daytona after all.
SEE MORE OF WHERE YOU LIVE: Besides wooing tourists from other parts of the country and world, the Visit Florida budget includes $1.8 million to contract with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to market Florida to Floridians. "This campaign shall require a private matching program and shall be conducted throughout the state," the budget says.
OCEAN TIRE REMOVAL: The budget includes $1.8 million for new technologies to complement the hand removal of tires from the Osborne Reef off Broward County, where tires had been put in the ocean in the hope of creating new fish habitat. The money will also go to a study on the environmental benefits of the tire removal program.
BOATS LAUNCHES: From a pair of trust funds, the budget floats $250,000 to the Lauderdale Lakes Water Pollutant Reduction Boat Ramp System and $500,000 to the Niceville Public Landing and Bayou Restoration Access Facility.
CANINE CARE IN BREVARD: Listed as a community development grant, the Humane Society in Brevard County is in line to receive $14,000 for dog runs and $19,000 for large dog kennels.
FLORIDA ARTS AND MUSEUMS: The budget provides funding for numerous cultural facilities, from $3 million for a parking structure at the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse and $600,000 for the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville to $500,000 for the Tampa Theatre, $200,000 for the Orlando Science Center and $150,000 for the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland.
The budget also includes $369,676 for the LaBelle Civic Center, $53,000 for the Pioneer Museum in Dade City, $250,000 for the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, $300,000 for the North Museum of Art in West Palm Beach and $250,000 for the Florida Orchestra Residency Program.
REMEMBER THE MILITARY: For people who like military history, the spending plan has $250,000 for the Military Museum of South Florida in Miami-Dade County, $100,000 for the Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce and $125,000 for the USS Charles Adams Floating Museum, which is to be part of Jacksonville's downtown waterfront.
SPACE TOURISM: Space Florida, the state's public-private effort to grow aerospace-related businesses, is slated to get $17.5 million in the budget, of which $1.5 million is earmarked to market and promote the space tourism industry.
Another $1 million continues the state's aerospace collaborative with Israel and $2.5 million goes to operating the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. Space Florida is using the three-mile runway as a testing ground for new companies and technologies.
HIGHWAY FOG: As part of an outlay for traffic-engineering consultants, the budget includes $1.5 million for the continued development of multi-level fog monitoring stations and to further refine weather modeling to provide advanced warning of other weather road conditions and traffic congestion.
News Service of Florida