When thinking about the ongoing debate over water in Tallahassee, forget the policy-speak.
Forget the acre-feet, the recharge and the conveyance. Forget the math — and even the measurements.
Think about the ideologies for a second. Think about the principles that are guiding the leaders who are making decisions that will have a lasting impact on how, when and where water flows across Florida for generations from now.
What principles are guiding Senate President Joe Negron regarding his $2.4 billion plan to buy 60,000 acres for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee?
What principles would House Speaker Richard Corcoran use to sell the idea to his overwhelmingly conservative caucus?
intrusion of big government
The concept of the government taking land from private landowners should send a shiver up the spine of anyone who calls themselves a “small government conservative.”
Land buying is popular in liberal states like California and New York. But in states like Florida, land that is not essential to conservation should be available for private citizens.
Then there is the cost, which is a staggering $2.4 billion bonded out for years to come. This type of payment scheme should be having Milton Friedman, the legendary conservative economist, spinning in his grave.
Another issue is having to rely on the federal government: No matter how much Florida spends on Everglades restoration, it will never be enough without firm commitments from our federal partners.
And with Washington as broken as it is, it will be a while before an aimless land buy will get federal approval.
There’s also the fact that the plan would take a significant portion of funding meant for projects around the state and funnel to South Florida.
North Florida has needs, too, including the restoration of the St. Johns River as well as the restoration of our springs.
On top of all of this is the revelation that the Everglades Foundation scientist whose work has influenced the Negron plan has apparently taken some liberties with the numbers.
This type of fake science is what the far left seems to be increasingly resorting to when the facts don’t support its agenda.
When you add it all up, it amounts to a liberal eco-nirvana: buying land for buying’s sake.
It is an erosion of property rights.
It is a purchase without an immediate purpose.
And it is a plan that will punish the very men and women in agriculture who help make Florida’s economy hum.
With these critical facts in mind, it’s little wonder that Negron spent his first few days as Senate president defending his chamber as “conservative.”
But given that we are in an era of conservatism symbolized by new President Donald Trump, Negron faces an unenviable task in trying to tell caucus members that they are “conservative” enough.
In the House, meanwhile, Corcoran has to be shaking his head and wondering how people who call themselves “conservative” can in their right minds support this plan.
Hatched in the bowels of the Everglades Foundation headquarters, the plan may play well in Palm Beach.
But it won’t cut it in Micanopy.
In the Florida counties that Trump carried last November, voters are looking for ways to get government out of the real estate business — not into it.
To be sure, Negron’s constituents are angry, as they should be.
No one should have to visit a beach full of toxic blue green algae.
But taxpayers should be angry as well.
There are ways to solve environmental problems without costly land buys that kill jobs and put even more land onto government rolls.
Dougher is a Republican state committeewoman from Clay County. She is the immediate past chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
This story originally appeared at: http://jacksonville.com/opinion/2017-01-23/guest-column-negron-s-plan-buy-everglades-land-big-government-its-worst