Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) issued the following statement following the release of Governor Ron DeSantis executive order on water policy reforms Thursday:
“While I am encouraged that Governor DeSantis is taking the first steps to address the dire water pollution crisis facing Florida, I am concerned by the lack of details in his directive.
“His order calls for the securing of $2.5 billion over the next four years to invest in Everglades restoration and protecting our water resources, but there is no identification of where that money will come from. Will he turn to the Trump Administration? Or will he be seeking help from the Legislature? Can our state budget handle this increase? Is the plan to cut into other programs to raise the needed funds? Will Floridians lose services in one area to offset the costs for water cleanup?
“The governor’s executive order also calls for DEP ‘to establish a septic conversion and remediation grant program with a local government match requirement.’ But that, too, raises a host of questions for which answers are elusive. Will the full costs of these conversions be covered by the state and local governments? Or will homeowners be forced to foot an expensive bill? What if local governments don’t have the resources? Especially for our counties with fewer resources at their disposal, or those counties that were hard hit by Hurricane Michael and have little if any resources remaining, how will they manage this new mandate?
“We share the urgency for cleaning up our water and our environment; it’s been a top priority of ours for many years. The policies of the past administration have taken a terrible toll on our natural resources, to say nothing of the impact on our marine life.
“But an executive order has to have more than just lofty goals, or admirable pursuits. It has to have the details we need to judge whether these goals are doable without hammering local governments and families throughout Florida with expenses they cannot possibly afford.
“Senate Democrats look forward to getting those details.”