Nigel Cook / Daytona Beach News-Journal

FL - Florida GOP Lawmakers Question Adding $1B in Debt for Desantis' Resiliency Fund for Climate Change

TALLAHASSEE — A few years ago, Republican lawmakers were averse to publicly acknowledging climate change, outside of rising sea levels affecting some coastal South Florida communities.

October 31, 2016

Now, as many lawmakers accept the science and back the need to develop a statewide plan to address the impacts of rising sea levels, hurricanes and flooding on a predominantly flat state, questions focus on a debt-adding $1 billion resiliency program pitched by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Environmentalists would like DeSantis to go further, to also address the causes of climate change rather than just the effects. Meanwhile, Republican legislators with a tight grasp on the state’s purse strings have yet to fully embrace DeSantis’ proposed four-year “Resilient Florida” plan as the 60-day legislative session prepares to begin March 2.

In announcing Resilient Florida on Jan. 28, DeSantis said it is designed to help local and state agencies “tackle the challenges posed by flooding, intensified storm events, sea-level rise.”

But the proposal came as lawmakers grapple with a budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while DeSantis maintains a rosier outlook on the economy. And incurring long-term debt through bonding — as DeSantis proposes for Resilient Florida — is a big issue for Republicans who consider themselves fiscal conservatives.

Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Dover, would like House staff members to determine if existing dollars are available to cover the resiliency program.

“Perhaps before we go and secure debt, can we find the revenues?” McClure asked of DeSantis’ bonding proposals. “Obviously, we're facing budget challenges in the wake of the last year, and certainly even before that with storms and other events. So, I'm a little curious, and quite frankly, marginally concerned about taking on a debt load, no matter the interest rate, when maybe we don't fully understand the entire budget forecast.”

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