Demanding to be first in the water line

I was asked to write a bit more about how the House water bill gives “Special water breaks” to certain water “self-suppliers.” The details are buried deep within the 87-page bill and  are designed almost entirely to benefit agricultural users (without saying so). How do these special favors for agriculture work? A key example is a revolution in the statute’s definition of “water resource development.” It adds “self-suppliers” to those eligible for government assistance:

(24) “Water resource development” means the formulation and implementation of regional water resource management strategies, including the collection and evaluation of surface water and groundwater data; structural and nonstructural to protect and manage water resources; the development of regional water resource implementation programs; the construction, operation, and maintenance of major public works facilities to provide for flood control, surface and underground water storage, and groundwater recharge augmentation; and related technical assistance to local governments, and to government-owned and privately owned water utilities, and self-suppliers.

That same “self-supplier” term is added elsewhere to put this category of users at the head of the line:

(b) The governing board of a water management district shall give priority consideration to the identification of preferred water supply sources for self-suppliers for which access to or development of new water supplies is not technically or financially feasible. (p. 14)

Other major changes makes “self-suppliers” eligible for direct financial assistance:

373.707 Alternative water supply development.—
(3) The primary roles of the water management districts in water resource development as it relates to supporting alternative water supply development are:
(f) The provision of technical and financial assistance to local governments, self-suppliers, and publicly owned and privately owned water utilities for alternative water supply projects.

(e) Applicants for projects that may receive funding assistance pursuant to the Water Protection and Sustainability Program or receive other state funding shall, at a minimum, be required to pay 60 percent of the project’s construction costs. The water management districts may, at their discretion, totally or partially waive this requirement for projects sponsored by:

1. Financially disadvantaged small local governments as defined in former s. 403.885(5); or 

2. Self-suppliers for projects determined by a water management district governing board to be in the public interest pursuant to paragraph (1)(f), if the projects are not otherwise financially feasible. (p. 72)

Quite a set of new special privileges. But why give these special breaks to agricultural businesses at all? Agricultural activities already benefit from enormous property tax breaks. According to the Florida Department of Revenue 2014 Data Book, agricultural land is taxed at only 9% of its “just value”:

2014 Ag just value

In some counties, like Broward, Duval, Marion, Orange, Sarasota, and Seminole, assessed values for agricultural land are held down to less than 5% of just value. What a deal! Should a business that pays hardly any property taxes also get preferred or subsidized access to water?


Demanding to be first in the water line — 3 Comments

  1. What happen to all people treated the same in the eyes of the law? If you are already getting reduced fees/taxation in one area then you should not be allowed to have multiple benefits/subsidies. With the state taking over more lands for conservation that means less monies in the general fund for running the state government. With so much state support for so many things it is a wonder how anything gets done. More & more state tax dollars

  2. Best legislature money can buy….Amazing how we voters don’t just throw each elected official out of office after one term until someone gets the message,, ” If you don’t represent and work for the benefit of the State and its citizens as a whole ( instead of the big bucks that paid for your campaign), you won’t be there next term”. May take a few years but, it would work. Of course, that would mean the citizens would have to educate themselves ( not thru talking heads) on the issues and voting records and then vote for person, not party. Hmm..Pollyanna at work here…politicos are no doubt safe . Citizens get what they vote for. A non vote is a vote to accept whatever happens but, please don’t complain.

  3. What can the average person,who loves our state, do to get the attention of the legislators? They have money waved in their faces & it’s hard to recognize what is happening to our state & it’s economy. If we do away with our water resources or let them deteriorate we won’t have an economy. No tourists, no agriculture, no cattle or citrus. Has anyone looked at what’s happening in California now? Some areas have been in a drought for 14 years! Do we want that for Florida? Wake up