TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Five years ago, 75 percent of Florida voters approved setting money aside for land conservation and acquisition, but since its passage lawmakers have never fully funded Florida Forever.
Environmental groups used the fifth anniversary of the passing Monday to call on lawmakers to dedicate $100 million to Florida Forever going forward.
Prior to 2009, the program received $300 million a year. Lawmakers dedicated just $33 million in 2019.
"The people of Florida voted and it's time for our legislators to listen," said Christine Johnson with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.
Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley said part of the funding was low this year because the state hadn't spent all the money it received in 2018. But he believes the administration is picking up the pace.
"I'm confident in talking to Governor DeSantis and his team that they're going to move the money out the door quicker," Bradley said.
That could increase the odds for more funding in 2020, and possibly in the future as well.
State Senator Linda Stewart is sponsoring a bill that would guarantee $100 million to Florida Forever and make the funding reoccurring.
"If we have left over leave it and then give the $100 million again the next year. That just gives us more to work with," said Stewart.
The bill also would prohibit money in the trust fund from being spent on administrative costs, which has taken up a third of the pot in previous years.
Environmentalists like Aliki Moncrief with the Florida Conservation Voters said overall, she's optimistic going into the 2020 session.
"The more lawmakers we've talked to this year, more are willing to entertain the idea of a dedicated stream of funding," Moncrief said. "I think that the question is going to come around, well at what level?"
The Governor requested $100 million for Florida Forever this past Legislative session.
Those we spoke with expect him to make a similar request this year.
Senator Stewart said $100 million is only her starting bid.