State multi-year plan sought for water-related projects
TALLAHASSEE – As Florida’s rapid growth continues, the non-profit Florida TaxWatch on Wednesday called for using a multi-year plan for water-related projects, similar to how the state has long prioritized transportation projects.
TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said following the model of the Department of Transportation's rolling 5-year work program could eliminate the state’s current method of funding water projects, which his group called “inconsistent and disjointed.”
“The current system to fund water projects, both through grant programs and through member (lawmaker) projects, does not have the kind of consistency to allow for a comprehensive, coordinated statewide strategy," Calabro said during a news conference at the Capitol. “And Floridians do not currently have the assurance that the best projects to achieve that strategy are selected.”
But setting up a system that ranks water projects isn’t ready for “prime time,” Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, said.
Overdorf, a member of the House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee, said that while regional planning councils have also voiced support for a ranking system, there “needs to be a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan” before any legislation is rolled out.
"Water projects are very complex," Overdorf said. "They happen at the local level. They happen at the statewide level, regional level. So, how does that fit into a work plan? How does that not overlap with comprehensive Everglades restoration or how does it? Those are things that we have yet to work out."
A TaxWatch report said a series of issues make it hard to determine projects with the highest return on investments. Those issues include myriad grant programs, one-time investments, recurring programs in the state budget and an increased number of local water projects that get earmarks.