BUDGET TIDBITS GO FROM ALLIGATORS TO ZOOS
By JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
The more than 400-page state budget approved this week by Florida lawmakers goes beyond spending on high-profile issues such as education, prisons and health care.
The $82.4 billion spending plan, which is headed to Gov. Rick Scott, is sprinkled with numerous local projects that are priorities of individual lawmakers.
Scott in the coming weeks will be able to veto the entire budget, take out individual budget items or let the Legislature’s spending decisions stand.
Here are some examples of items included in the budget:
In preparation for the 2017 World Rowing Championship, being held in Sarasota later this year, lawmakers have offered $2.5 million for temporary facilities at Benderson Park.
For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, Palm Bay would get $222,817 to restore a “historic” pier and shoreline; Jacksonville would see $200,000 for the Northbank Riverwalk at Gefen Bridge; Port St. Lucie would receive $200,000 for its Riverwalk Boardwalk extension along the St. Lucie River; and Milton is slated to get $1 million to extend its Riverwalk along the Blackwater River.
GALVEZ RIDES AGAIN:
The state would chip in $100,000 to help the Pensacola Heritage Foundation erect a $400,000, 11-foot-high sculpture of Spanish Gen. Bernardo de Galvez, in full dress regalia and mounted on a horse. The sculpture would go in the intersection of Palafox and Wright streets in Pensacola.
Galvez is considered the hero of the 1781 Siege of Pensacola, which was part of driving out the British during the Revolutionary War. In 2014, Galvez became the eighth person awarded honorary U.S. citizenship.
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As part of agricultural promotions, the Arcadia Equestrian Facility would get $500,000; the Northeast Florida Fairgrounds in Nassau County would get $256,855; the Pasco County Fairgrounds is up for $860,000; and the Hardee County Fairgrounds would get $111,479.
KEEP OFF THE FAKE GRASS:
The City of Stuart is slated to get $1 million toward the creation of a regional athletic complex that would be used for state and national baseball tournaments tied to the Babe Ruth League.
However, the state has a requirement about the playing surface.
“No funds may be expended on Astroturf for the improvements funded in this Specific Appropriation,” the budget states.
HOTEL ON THE MOVE:
Fort Walton Beach could get $300,000 to move — about a half-mile down the road — the historic Gulfview Hotel as part of plans for a welcome center and museum.
The 111-year-old hotel, on the National Register of Historic Places, was recently donated to Fort Walton Beach with a requirement the building be relocated to city-owned property adjacent to the Heritage Park & Cultural Center.
NO SNACKS FOR BEARS:
To keep bears from gobbling trash for lunch and dinner, $415,283 is slated to go to counties and local governments for programs that help residents purchase bear-resistant garbage containers.
The budget requires that at least 60 percent of the money, which comes from the sale of “Conserve Wildlife” license plates, go to local governments that have ordinances focused on resolving issues associated with bears foraging for food in garbage cans.
Palm Beach Zoo, where an employee was killed by a tiger a year ago, would get $300,000 to help make changes in a safety, training and access system.
The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens is up for $854,677 million as part of a partnership with Seminole County to build a teaching facility to serve middle and high schools and colleges.
The Lowry Park Zoo Manatee Hospital would receive $500,000 to complete life-support system upgrades. And the Brevard Zoo is up for $1.126 million for conservation research.
Lawmakers want to spend $150,000 to determine site locations for an underwater “Marine Statue Garden” that could provide recreational opportunities for Floridians and draw tourism dollars.
The state would spend $150,000 for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to contract with the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research on a feasibility study related to moving the Florida Highway Patrol Academy from Gadsden County to Polk County. The new site would be on or near the SunTrax facility at the Florida Polytechnic University campus.
WE’VE GOT ALLIGATORS:
A budget staple targeted in the past by Scott, $150,000 would go to alligator marketing at the Department of Agriculture.
Scott vetoed the line item in 2011, having highlighted the expense as budget fat after telling The Wall Street Journal, “We’re not doing alligator marketing, things like that.”
Since then, the marketing money, voluntarily paid by alligator farmers, has survived Scott’s veto pen.
Lawmakers also allocated $49,000 for public dove-field development and $400,000 for deer management.