April 12, 2019

Investment in Sunshine State Families, Not Tolled Expressways, Will Improve Quality of Life in Rural Communities

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

There is a bill making its way through the state Legislature right now that would create tolled expressways through three designated corridors in Florida: the Southwest-Central Florida Connector, the Suncoast Connector and the Northern Turnpike Connector.

The Florida Policy Institute has written previously on the importance of investing in infrastructure– things like updated roads and bridges, climate resilient buildings and modernized schools. Unfortunately, HB 7113/SB 7068 misses the mark, jeopardizing Florida’s numerous parks, reserves and refuges.

The bill text states that the purpose of the corridors is to “revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation in those communities, and provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of life and public safety, and protecting the environment and natural resources.” Saying that Florida has a spotty history when it comes to conservation is an understatement, as in the past decade alone lawmakers have taken hundreds of millions in Florida Forever dollars — earmarked for state land acquisition — to use for other areas of the budget. And the endangered lands that Florida has acquired under this program would, as the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club recently pointed out, be threatened under the expressways bill.

The Sunshine State is underfunding those things that truly give rural families a boost and generate economic activity, like affordable rentals, quality schools that prepare students for college and work and affordable health care. Constructing tolled expressways in a state that already has the most toll road mileage in the nation, and in a way that could harm parks and wildlife, will do little to help residents.

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