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Rick Scott's Quiet Campaign Against the Environment

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Remember the environmental apocalypse Rick Scott was supposed to create?

While campaigning for governor, Scott called the Department of Community Affairs, the state agency charged with overseeing local development projects, a "jobs killer." He said he'd heard complaints that development permits were issued too slowly. (That building boom? It was just a myth.)

Once elected, his transition team made the unabashedly pro-development suggestion of merging community affairs with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation, forming a new entity called the Department of Growth Leadership.

Environmental advocates freaked out, believing Florida's few unblemished coastlines and forest tracts would be immediately sacrificed to condo builders.Their worst fears never materialized, but state lawmakers did take the hint and start gutting programs.

In May, the state Senate quietly passed a bill that killed the Department of Community of Affairs, farming off its various duties to other government agencies. The Legislature also agreed with Scott's proposal to chop property tax funding for local water management districts -- including a 30 percent, $128 million budget cut for the South Florida Water Management District, the agency charged with restoring the Everglades.

Scott was also determined to end funding for the state's Florida Forever program, which buys land to conserve for parks and forests. State lawmakers proposed a way to rescue the program by selling off surplus land in order to buy more. But in May, Scott used his line-item veto power to ax that plan from the budget.

So no, Scott wasn't totally successful in his campaign to turn Florida's environmental protection programs into tools of "growth leadership." But he's off to a good start.


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