Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Everglades Improvement and Management bill into law Tuesday. The measure appropriates $32 million a year for the next decade to help clean up the Everglades.
It’s hard to argue against funding restoration efforts in the Everglades, but the new law is more complicated than it may first appear.
According to David Guest, managing attorney for the Tallahassee office of Earth Justice, the law allows polluters to shirk constitutional obligations.
The Florida state constitution obligates polluters to be primarily responsible for the cost of their own environmental clean-up.
“The people of Florida passed a constitutional amendment so that the polluter must pay. That’s the principle, and it’s a good, fair, just principle. The legislature abandoned it here,” Guest said.
The law says farms will fulfill their constitutional obligation by paying the state mandated Agricultural Privilege Tax and following a set of preventative practices.
Brian Hughes, spokesman for Florida Sugar Farmers says the industry is doing its part by bearing the cost of these taxes and pollution reduction technologies.
The Everglades Improvement and Management law reduces this tax burden beginning in 2027, and continues in steps until it reaches $10 an acre in 2036.