Budget Conferees and allocations were announced yesterday and conference committees began meeting yesterday evening. Unresolved budget items will bump to the full chairs on Saturday at noon and to the presiding officers at noon on Sunday. Budgets will need to be finalized, printed and on the desks next Tuesday in order for the Legislature to Sine Die next Friday.
Land conservation programs continue to suffer in budget negotiations. The Rural and Family Lands Program has not even been a part of budget negotiations to date. Last year, the program received $35M. After House and Senate Offer No. 1, Florida Forever has been zeroed out and the item is closed, although Representative Caldwell has indicated that negotiations are ongoing and there may be funding for Florida Forever as budget negotiations continue. House Offer No. 1 includes $15M for Florida Communities Trust, but the Senate currently has zero funding for this program.
HB 7119 may also appear in budget negotiations. This bill would streamline and reprioritize Florida Forever. An amendment in the House would provide funding in out years, scaling up from $57M next year to $200M going forward. However, HB 7119 does not contain any funding for this budget year.
The Senate met the House position on the Local Government Cleanup Contracting Program and this item has closed out at $13M, a $1M reduction over last year. The Distribution to Counties from Motor Vehicle Registration Proceeds for air pollution programs was fully funded on both sides at $8.7M and is not part of the current ongoing budget negotiations.
Funding for Beaches is at $30M in the House, with no Hurricane Matthew recovery funding and $100M in the Senate, including $18M for Hurricane Matthew recovery and $50M for the traditional program. Water Projects are currently at $20M in the House and $58M in the Senate. Although both the House and Senate offer continue to have significant levels of funding for Everglades Restoration, this item will likely be one of the last programs negotiated, as the House and Senate negotiate over SB 10. This bill addresses water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.