With the Monroe County mayor looking on, a Senate panel Tuesday approved the Florida Keys Stewardship Act.
The measure would pump $20 million into environmental projects in an area known as the home of the only tropical reefs in the continental United States.
Republican Anitere Flores of Miami says the investment will more than pay for itself.
“The Florida Keys is a huge economic driver for the entire state of Florida. It is incumbent on the state to invest to insure that the environment, that the natural resources that are important to the Keys are preserved.”
Republican Thad Altman of Melbourne tried to add an amendment limiting a portion of the spending to canal dredging, but agreed to back down.
More than 1.3 million people visit the Keys annually and economists say the activity generates $1.3 billion.