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Plan Emerges In Fla. Legislature For Sea-Level Rise, Wastewater Funding

A Jeep drives through a flooded street in St. Augustine.
Brendan Rivers
A Jeep drives through a flooded street in St. Augustine.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls late Tuesday released a plan to tap into a type of real-estate taxes to pay for projects to address the effects of sea-level rise and upgrade sewage treatment. 

The plan would use portions of documentary-stamp taxes that are currently designated for affordable-housing programs in what is known as the Sadowski Trust Fund. 

Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, has made addressing sea-level rise a priority, while Simpson, R-Trilby, has made a priority of wastewater upgrades. 

Under the plan, a third of the documentary-stamp tax money would go to sea-level rise efforts, a third would go to a wastewater grant program and a third would go to affordable housing. 

The Sadowski Trust Fund is an annual target of lawmakers who divert --- or “sweep” --- money from the trust fund to pay for programs not related to affordable housing. While the new plan would reduce the amount of money designated for the trust fund, the announcement from Simpson and Sprowls said lawmakers would make a change to prevent sweeps. 

“Nearly every year we end up sweeping documentary stamp money that is dedicated to affordable housing into our general revenue fund to spend it on the needs of the day,” Simpson said in a prepared statement. “We also have a tendency to create programs that sound great, but which we don’t actually fund. This proposal addresses all of these issues by modernizing our documentary stamp distributions to dedicate a steady stream of funding in three key areas of infrastructure --- affordable housing, wastewater, and mitigating sea-level rise.” 

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to consider the plan Thursday.