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Funding for Everglades projects tied up in controversial spending package

By Staff | Jun 20, 2019

A bill that narrowly squeaked through the U.S. House Wednesday that includes $200 million for Everglades restoration projects has been met with varying opinion in Florida.

H.R. 2740 is a bundle of multiple spending bills that includes “Energy and Water Development” appropriations for fiscal year 2020, including $200 million for Everglades restoration.

The bill also includes dollars for “Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Legislative Branch, Defense, State Foreign Operations.”

Congressman Francis Rooney, R-Naples, 19th District of Florida which includes all of Lee County, voted “no” on the bill and called it “irresponsible” saying it “drastically exceeds budget caps.”

“This appropriations package contains nearly $1 trillion in discretionary spending and is $176 billion above current spending caps,” Rooney said in a statement. “Even with all this excessive spending, democrats inserted language to explicitly prohibit any funding for securing our southern border – which seems to be the only area where they have found a passion for spending constraints. Congress has a responsibility to address its spending addiction in a serious manner, not by playing politics with border security. Equally as bad, the legislation is openly hostile to those of us that believe in the sanctity of life.”

Rooney has made water quality projects a priority and has supported the pledge of $200 million for Everglades restoration.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, was in support of the bill.

“The House of Representatives today responded to the suffocation of America’s Everglades with all the urgency it deserves,” Eikenberg said in a statement. “At long last, the bill sets aside all the dollars needed to meet the federal share of restoration costs for the coming year, including getting the Everglades Reservoir off the ground and driving toward near-term completion of important projects such as Kissimmee River and Picayune Strand. The sooner we can complete key restoration projects, the sooner we can reduce the discharges of polluted water to our coasts and restore the flow of clean freshwater south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

“I thank our Florida Congressional delegation and the full House for including funding of Everglades restoration in this bill.”

The bill will now move to the U.S Senate for its consideration with speculation it will not pass in current form due to conditions unrelated to Everglades funding.

“I would expect the Senate appropriations bill to be very different,” Rooney said.

According to Rooney’s office, the House bill would: “Prohibit funding for a border wall or barriers of any type. Forces the Administration to provide grants to Planned Parenthood clinics. Prohibits implementation of the Administration’s expanded Mexico City policy. Provides $100 million for flawed Obamacare Navigator grants.”

If the bill does pass through the Senate it would head to President Trump’s desk. Based on prior comments made by President Trump and his stance on the border wall, the bill, as tendered, would face veto.

“The White House has already advised that it would likely veto H.R. 2740,” said Rooney.

Rooney has been adamant over the last few months in getting funding for Everglades projects, and hosted multiple roundtable discussions with state officials, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, local leaders, scientists, nonprofits, environmental advocates and community partners.

President Trump also wrote in a May 13 Tweet that, “My Administration will be fighting for $200 million for the Army Corps Everglades restoration work this year. Congress needs to help us complete the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration project ASAP! Good for Florida and good for the environment.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj