Last week, Governor Rick Scott held a press conference in West Palm Beach to announce the signing of HB 7065, which provides state funding for his $880 million Everglades restoration plan.   Among other things, the bill authorizes the continued use of the SFWMD’s ad valorem revenues within the Okeechobee Basin to implement the Long-Term Plan, and deletes references to the “interim phase” of the Plan.   After completion of all projects and improvements in the Long Term Plan, the bill requires the SFWMD to perform an analysis to determine if those projects and improvements will achieve the water quality based effluent limits established in permits and orders.  

The bill also requires the payment of a $25 per acre “agricultural privilege tax” on property within the Everglades Agricultural Area until November 2026, with the tax rate reduced to $10 per acre in November 2036 and thereafter.  Current law would allow the tax reduction in 2017.   Proceeds from the tax must be used for design, construction, and implementation of the Long-Term Plan, including operation and maintenance, and research for the projects and strategies in the Long-Term Plan, including the enhancements and operation and maintenance of the Everglades Construction Project.

Lastly, the bill provides that beginning in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and each year thereafter through 2023-2024, the sum of $12 million in recurring general revenue funds and $20 million in recurring funds from the Water Management Lands Trust Fund is appropriated to the Department of Environmental Protection for the Restoration Strategies Regional Water Quality Plan.