A majority of Florida voters do not want to abandon Everglades restoration efforts and also aren’t so keen on Gov. Rick Scott’s plans to scale back state growth management efforts, according to a poll released Monday by an environmental group.
About 65 percent of people surveyed in the poll commissioned by the Everglades Foundation said “restoring the Everglades” was an extremely or very important issue to them personally.
Additionally, 55 percent said they were opposed to a budget cut from $50 million this year to $17 million, which is called for in Scott’s budget proposal.
“We believe everybody needs to share the pain, but Everglades restoration has already taken a disproportionate hit,” said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, a non-profit group founded in 1993 to support the environmental endeavor.
Funding for the massive environmental project reached a peak of $200 million under Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration, but in tough economic times, the funding took a hit. Now, the program appears poised for further cuts as lawmakers carve out a budget for the 2012 fiscal year, starting already $3.6 billion in the hole.
Fordham and his group are trying to persuade the governor that conservation can be a job creator, which Scott has said is his top priority. Contractors, engineers and other scientists could be employed to work on conservation issues, he said.
“Our message to the governor is that he can partner with the conservation community to create jobs and protect our water supply at the same time,” Fordham said.
The survey also asked whether voters agreed with a statement that said “We need the state to manage new development to avoid placing additional burdens on taxpayers for the costs of building new roads, schools and other infrastructure in undeveloped areas.” Sixty-one percent of respondents said they agreed, with 34 percent disagreeing.
The poll runs counter to the governor’s plan to basically dismantle the Department of Community Affairs, which Scott has said is largely an impediment to job creation. The governor may shed more light on his plans next week in his State of the State address before the House and Senate.
The Everglades survey was conducted by the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm whose clients include Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
The firm surveyed 607 likely voters on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 with a margin of error of 4.1 percent.
By Kathleen Haughney
The News Service of Florida