By Alexis Franz, JMI Intern & FSU Junior, Risk Management/Insurance & Economics
Gov. Crist’s “Sugar Deal” to purchase land for Everglades restoration is in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court. The court is deciding whether the South Florida Water Management District can borrow the $536 million to purchase 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corporation. Some opposed to this purchase argue that the state, which is already dealing with a large budget shortfall, has no business borrowing hefty sums of money that will ultimately be passed on to taxpayers. Extensive amounts of land have already been purchased for Everglades restoration projects (estimated around 233,000 acres), and those projects still have lots of valuable work to be done.Proponents of the plan see this as a huge opportunity to improve and stabilize the crucial wetlands of South Florida.Despite one’s position on the issue in general, it can be argued that the logistics of this specific purchase have been pretty unclear. The actual numbers for this project, which began at $1.75 billion for 180,000 acres, have been lacking in transparency and details. Exactly how much will it cost? How would this plan affect small mill-towns, and jobs, around the Okeechobee area? What are the additional costs of the actual restoration process that will happen on this land?With such a large sum of money about to be “borrowed” from already struggling Floridians, we should expect a little more clarity from our state leaders about exactly what we’re getting into.