House, Senate agree to $15 million for Florida Forever

House budget negotiators agreed Friday to provide $15 million in fiscal year 2010-11 for Florida Forever, the nation’s largest land-buying program.

The program has received $300 million a year since 1990 but received nothing from the Legislature last year after the House declined to provide funding amid declining state revenues. During conference committee meetings earlier this week, House negotiators offered funding close to the Senate’s $15-million offer. But the issue was left up to the budget chairmen for the House and Senate to reach agreement, which they did Friday.

Some Florida Forever supporters had hoped this week the state could bond $50 million. But Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales and the Senate budget chair, said the state couldn’t dedicate recurring revenue towards land-buying. “I wish we could do more,” he said. “It’s just that right now we don’t have the doc stamp revenues to underpin additional bonds there.” Janet Bowman of The Nature Conservancy said the appropriation will help the program survive until the economy improves.

Some programs that received no Florida Forever dollars last year still will experience steep cuts compared to previous years. The Florida Communities Trust program, which had provided $63 million a year in state matching grants to cities and counties for parks, would get $3.15 million in fiscal year 2010-11. The Stan Mayfield Working Waterfronts program, which received $7.5 million in 2008, would receive $375,000 in fiscal year 2010-11.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)