Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Preservation Plan Faces Major Hurdle House, Senate Must Negotiate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Preservation Plan Faces Major Hurdle House, Senate Must Negotiate

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- The House began moving forward yesterday with a $300 million-a-year environmental plan that could help Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney buy and preserve thousands of acres in the city.

House members made changes to the plan that city and environmental officials said could help Delaney and Northeast Florida receive a larger chunk of the money. The plan would replace the Preservation 2000 land acquisition program, which will expire next year.

But the plan, which House members are expected to approve Monday, still faces a major hurdle: House and Senate negotiators will have to work out key differences before lawmakers can approve a final program.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, said this week the Senate might even be willing to put off a decision until next year if the two sides can't agree on a plan. Negotiations also broke down last year.

"If it's not right and we can't work out some of the differences that we have . . . we won't do it again this year," said Latvala, who pushed a bill through the Senate last month. "We'll wait until we get it right."

Jacksonville officials have hired a team of lobbyists to closely watch the issue as they try to carry out Delaney's $312.8 million plan to buy and preserve land and develop parks. Delaney is looking for about $75 million from Preservation 2000 and its successor program to help buy land.

Under Preservation 2000, which started in 1990, the state collects taxes on real estate transactions and uses the money to spend $300 million a year on environmental projects. So far, the program has bought about 1 million acres throughout Florida.

The House and Senate plans differ, at least in part, because of the House's request that the new program boost spending on projects that would improve water supplies and water quality. The Senate, backed by environmental groups and Jacksonville officials, fears that focusing on water projects would reduce the amount of money available for preserving land. …

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