Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection now says that state parks should generate more revenue because its secretary doesn’t want to have to depend on the Legislature for funding. “When you have education and health care clamoring for dollars, I want to be able to handle our business and take care of our own situation,” Jon Steverson said in a news article last month.
That idea might appeal to some, but it ignores two basic facts. First, state parks don’t compete with education or health care for funding. They have their own separate funding sources. Second, any new park revenues will go into the Legislature’s piggy bank, not DEP’s. The DEP has to request the funds each year and the Legislature must approve every cent.
No one can predict what the Florida Legislature will do, but in my observation, one thing is certain: They are not about to hand over their power of the purse to DEP just to allow one agency head to circumvent the budget process. That’s not going to happen and Steverson must know it.
It’s worth noting that some former DEP officials advanced this same rationale a few years ago to justify their own ideas for eliminating public funding support for state parks. That proved to be just smoke and mirrors. It is this time, too.
So please, Secretary Steverson, let everyone in on the secret. Tell the people of Florida the truth about your plans for our state parks. You are running out of excuses.
Albert Gregory, Tallahassee