Legislative Approval of Water Management Budgets (HB 1834 Senator Hays): Under Florida’s Constitution, voted on by the people, each district’s operations are funded by local ad valorem taxes and since the creation of the districts (until last year) their budgets had review by the executive branch followed by approval of the governing board. The Board Members are people who live and work in the district boundaries. The districts work hard to balance all their functions from finding water for industries, cities and farms, to protecting the water needs of natural systems to prevent flooding, and maintain the water supply.
Last Year SB 2142 severely cut water management district funding, handicapping the ability of the districts to function. It was so bad that some in the legislature would like to change or repeal it. Unfortunately, this year's fix makes it worse in many respects. Although it purposes to raise the millage cap for the districts, and raise the dollars cap which was put on them last year, Senator Hays proposes to require detailed legislative approval of water management budgets. (This may be akin to the legislature having approval over school board budgets). If the legislature fails to take action on the administrative part of their budget, which oddly contains regulatory funding, the district’s operations will be shut down. So the incentive for the WMD's to approve only properly vetted permits as they should, now is dis-incentivized. If they make someone angry, well, the administrative budget can be cut so they can't function at all.
In the real world, it is impossible for the legislature to replace the functions of the governing boards in reviewing and approving district budgets. These people know their regions and the people who live and work there, and their water needs. It is their region's money that the districts are spending. Their job is complicated and time consuming. Politicizing water management funding by moving it to the legislature is a very bad idea. Natural systems don’t have a strong voice these days in Tallahassee. Special interest lobbyists will control water where the water goes and there will be a push towards water supply over all other functions of the districts.
The only bill needed is a complete repeal of all the damaging language in last year’s SB 2142. It is the Governor’s job to review the water management district budgets and he has the Department of Environmental Protection to assist in the budget review and to monitor the districts’ activities throughout the year. We understand the Governor’s Office is interested in and needs support for either repealing or substantially improving last year’s SB 2142 that did so much damage to the water management district. Please contact Governor Rick Scott (850) 488-7146) and ask that he support (1) removing the caps on millage rates so that the water management districts can do their missions; and (2) allowing no further legislative involvement in the water management budgeting process.
Please contact Senators Hays and Alexander (Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and advocate for this bill) and let them know that HB 1834 is a bad idea and that last year’s SB 2142 should be repealed in its entirety.