By Governor Rick Scott

As governor, I understand a healthy economy is dependent upon a healthy environment. Florida’s residents and businesses rely on clean water, clean air and open spaces for tourism, commerce, agriculture and recreation. That’s why protecting our natural resources through a stable regulatory environment is key to ensuring businesses are successful and future generations will be able to enjoy all that our state has to offer.

A stable regulatory environment does not mean lower environmental standards. It means that environmental policy will be governed by sound science, not politics or one-size-fits-all solutions. It means that our permit processes will be the same for Tampa residents and businesses as they are for those in Pensacola, Jacksonville or Key West, but also take into account our state’s regional differences.

It also means that more of our dollars will be directed toward projects that actually benefit the environment instead of government bureaucracy, excessive salaries and benefits, and costly litigation.

Government regulatory agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, are working hard to focus on customer service, timely permit decisions and compliance by sound rule development, writing clear and enforceable permits and by providing technical assistance and public education.

At the same time, willful violations of our environmental standards will not be tolerated. We will be just as vigilant about prosecuting bad actors as we are about helping businesses comply with the law.

The state of Florida should maintain its rights to protect our environment, and it should be done at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. We are a national leader in addressing pollution in our state’s water bodies and have the most extensive monitoring and assessment program in the country. We know more about our water bodies than any federal agency or other state and are in a unique position to craft a solution that recognizes and respects the needs of our diverse landscape. We will continue to work cooperatively with our federal partners as we develop a state-led effort to restore and protect our rivers, lakes and streams.

Florida is committed to moving forward on important restoration projects like improving water quality in the Everglades. The state and federal governments have invested significant resources, yet we both recognize there is more work to do. We cannot continue to let costly, ongoing lawsuits derail our progress, which is why recently I put forward a strategy that puts the Everglades first. We can all agree that the Everglades ecosystem is the crown jewel of Florida, and it deserves our best efforts to resolve differences and deliver results.

Government should be held accountable at all times, and especially during economic downturns we should make sure we’re spending taxpayer money wisely. Over the last five decades the state has acquired more than 4.2 million acres, including some of Florida’s most critical conservation properties. However, now is the time to evaluate our inventory and ask ourselves if we have the right land in the right places.

Future land purchases should ensure clean water for future generations and protect our state’s economic engines, such as military bases, estuaries and tourism destinations.

As we do with other state agencies, we will expect accountability budgeting from our water management districts, which means justifying every dollar we spend and bringing spending in line with revenues. Resources will be directed to ensuring the protection of Florida’s water quality, water supply, flood control and natural systems.

The state’s water management districts and the Department of Environmental Protection continue to employ some of the best environmental professionals in the country, and we will look to them to help identify creative, cost-saving solutions that do not impact the districts’ core missions. In addition, we should look to public-private partnerships to help meet our water quantity and quality goals, while keeping land on the tax rolls and agriculture in business.

Our state’s natural resources are unparalleled. It’s why people choose to live here, vacation here and bring their businesses here. In Florida, we don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. The two are inextricably linked, and as governor, I am working to ensure our resources are dedicated to the improvement of both.

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