Keys get funding; Key West cruise ship vote overturned
Legislative session in Tallahassee yielded millions of dollars for vital programs and projects in the Florida Keys. It also saw insertion of language to overturn a Key West vote that sought to limit cruise ships coming and going there.
First-year state Rep. Jim Mooney said while he wanted more funding for the College of the Florida Keys, a $20 million appropriation for the Florida Keys Stewardship Act passed through the legislature in a victory for the island chain. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget recommendation included the full funding amount after a $10 million cut last year due to the pandemic.
Mooney, a Republican, said it took some work to get money approved on the House and Senate sides.
“To get the $20 million appropriated for stewardship was huge. The program took the single biggest hit last year,” Mooney said. “There was nothing originally on the House or Senate side. Then we got a million on the Senate side, and I went to Jay Trumble and said ‘it would be nice if you could at least match that $1 million.’ Then finally it got fully funded.”
State funds for the Florida Keys Stewardship Act go toward land acquisition and water quality projects in the Keys. The money also supports stormwater projects and canal restoration. The appropriation awaits DeSantis’ signature.
Mote Marine Laboratory is receiving $1 million from the state for its coral restoration efforts through development of technologies and on-land and in-water nurseries, among other things. Mooney said about $400,000 was approved for a building renovation project for the College of the Florida Keys.
All in all, Mooney said the legislative session was productive. Next year, Mooney said, he’ll fight hard to bring in more funding for the College of the Florida Keys.
“When I started looking at funding for different state colleges, I was like, ‘Wait a minute, why are we second lowest and lowest in some areas?’
The college received just over $7.3 million for operating funds and approved baccalaureate programs — the second lowest received, next to North Florida Community College’s $6.9 million. Around $41,000 was for the Work Florida Student Success Initiative, which helps align career education programs with statewide and regional workforce demands, and just over $15,000 for the 2+2 Student Success Incentive, which support students in associate’s degree programs by completing critical college credit courses and transferring on to baccalaureate programs.
Millions of dollars were also approved for water quality projects. Mooney said a lot of money is going to support septic-to-sewer efforts throughout the state.
“It’s a little too late for the Keys to get reimbursed for that. We just like to lead the way,” Mooney said. “I preach up there all the time, ‘Don’t tell me you can’t do it because we did it.’ I’m not saying it wasn’t a little painful every now and then, but we’re there.”
Mooney said the seaport bill was one of the biggest surprises after it appeared dead and was inserted in a separate transportation bill. He argued against the amendment before the bill passed.
“When it did come back, it did come back a little less harmful to the overall port scene and also gave options of county or city commissioners to do their gig. Key West can say in theory no more cruise ships, this is how we’re going to do it.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out,” he continued. “I fought and that’s all I could do. I knew I had one shot at it, and that was in debate. That was my only hope of swaying votes.”
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