With new House Speaker Richard Corcoran already calling for reducing state spending, his freshly minted counterpart, Senate President Joe Negron, may have to polish his sales pitch to win his signature priority — a massive land buy south of Lake Okeechobee.
Negron, R-Stuart, includes part of northern Palm Beach County in his district, along with a huge swath of the Treasure Coast fouled last summer by polluted water discharged from the big lake to prevent flooding.
Negron has proposed a $2.4 billion plan to buy 60,000 acres, mostly in western Palm Beach County, for a reservoir that would stem the need for discharges which he said “poisoned” the waterways of surrounding communities.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, because no one says that the status quo is acceptable,” Negron said, hours after being sworn-in at this week’s organization session of the Legislature.
Negron plans to seek $65 million in taxpayer money to bond $1.2 billion over 20 years, using voter-approved Amendment 1 money that produces more than $700 million a year for conservation.
Corcoran said this week that the $82 billion state budget is in much worse shape than economists have said. Health care and pension costs have risen, he said and the specter of a tight budget fits into his overall approach to reduce the scope of hometown projects that always get tucked in the state spending plan by lawmakers.
Negron said this week that he agrees cuts can be made. But he isn’t budging from spending more to ease the state’s water problems while steering big money to higher education, another top shelf item for the Senate president.
On the land buy, Negron said he would urge lawmakers to consider that 75 percent of voters approved Amendment 1 in 2014 — which he said was a clear signal that conservation land should be acquired.
“The case I have to make is we are implementing the will of the voters,” Negron said.