PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- 4 In Your Corner interviewed both Florida Gubernatorial candidates for about 5 minutes.
Topics included the environment, and political unification. The following are answers given by Jacksonville Congressman Ron DeSantis.
Q: What policies do you hope to enact to solve the water quality crisis in SWFL?
A: I want to stop the discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River that's spawning the toxic algae. So what I'll do immediately, we will appoint people the the water management boards who understand the negative impact this has had on Southwest Florida's economy, tourism, quality of life and property values. So they're going to be people who approach it from the perspective of the people who actually live here, rather than one industry or another industry. We're also going to make sure we have good, solid water quality standards, that that's clear that that's in place, and that's applied uniformly, and then we are going to follow through with the water infrastructure projects, particularly the reservoir South of Lake Okeechobee. The legislature enacted that in 2017. I was able to get it in, approved by the White House to be included in this bill. So Trump has signed it into law. So as governor what I've got to do is say okay, this is urgent for Florida. We need to get this going. We can't wait ten years, we need to get that up and running as soon as possible. That ultimately will solve the problem because you will be able to redirect the water out of Lake Okeechobee to this reservoir, it can be cleaned, and then it can be diverted to the everglades and Florida Bay which need the water so you won't have to be doing discharges into the Caloosahatchee or Saint Lucie rivers.
Q: Is there a specific policy to begin?
A: We put out an environmental paper, obviously we're going to have to work with the folks that we appoint and we want to work with folks who understand the science and understand what's going on so we're in a good spot.
Q: How much funding should we dedicate to water quality?
A: Some of it will take funding, but some of it I think quite frankly is just making more sense so we don't have a bunch of different standards and we have one clear standard people understand and can abide by and that will work. I do think we will get funding for the reservoir in particular, because it has been authorized federally, so I think the next funding bill that comes down the pike will have that money. The state has obviously put a lot of money into it already, so we'll have a big tranche right there so we can get moving on it.
Q: What is your biggest priority in Florida?
A: The environment and water quality is one of the most urgent. It's one of the top for sure, because I think it affects everything that we do as a state. Water quality is really central to Florida's DNA. It's central to the quality of life. It's central to our economic wellbeing, it's central to our tax base. You saw what happened in Southwest Florida when we had the problems this summer. Tourism dried up. Business was really hurt, that means your tax base is narrowed when you have environmental problems. When you have the environment doing well, the tourism flows, everything clicks better for us. I think it's something voters really want solved. It's going to require the right vision, and I've put out a very bold statement/policies. That's why I've been endorsed by Everglades Trust, which a lot of Republicans aren't able to do. It's also going to require leadership. You've got to be able to work with other areas to get things done. The federal government, the state government, local. There's a bunch of stakeholders and you've got to be able to make it work.
I'm one of the only people in Florida that's ever voted against subsidies for big sugar. In fact, when I was running in the primary , I got millions and millions of dollars spent against me because I'm willing to stand up on behalf of Floridians and tax payers, so I've proven that I'm willing to do the right thing even when it's very politically difficult.
Q: How do you unite people/how would you work with your democratic colleagues?
A: Well I think that there's broad bipartisan consensus for water quality, for everglades restoration, for beach renourishment, doing things like that. So I don't think that should be a partisan issue at all. The economy, quite frankly, I think Andrew Gillum's proposal is what's been divisive, I mean he wants a 40% tax increase. We know one of the things that's made Florida successful is that we've had a low tax environment. That's why we're able to bring in and expand businesses. So that's what I'm going to focus on. I'm going to focus on doing what works, making sure we seize on this historic opportunity, we can get record investment and really expand sectors like manufacturing, finance, technology, that means the economy is stronger overall, but it also means people have access to higher paying jobs. And by the way, when you keep taxes low, and you drive investment into your state, you end up with more money to be able to do things like environment and education anyway because the economy is healthy and that's what's doing it. The states that have gone down the road of higher taxes, they shoot themselves in the foot. They lose business, they can never make it work, they run into budget problems. So we cannot go down that road. I think to be expanding those sectors, I think that's going to be good for everyone. I don't think that's going to be a partisan thing. We want to have a really broad based, dynamic economy here in Florida. We're much better than we were, but I don't think we've reached our potential yet.