Speaking to a Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation meeting on military issues, Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam pushed for funding for Florida Forever.
Putnam said in Orlando Tuesday that lands acquired through Florida Forever purchases not only help all the conservation causes but bolster the state’s economic strength, in particular when its used to develop buffers around military bases.
He expressed strong disappointment that the Florida Legislature allotted no money for Florida Forever this year, and said later, speaking to the press, that even $50 million a year might not be enough.
“I’m pretty disappointed on a lot of levels that that funding was zeroed out this year,” Putnam said.
“I’m not ready to roll out a policy paper, but historically, for the last seven years Florida Forever, I don’t know if it’s ever been above $50” million, he said later to reporters. “You know, I think that’s a minimum, if you’re going to make an impact at today’s real estate values. So I would suggest a significantly higher number than that is necessary to accomplish what we want to accomplish, to have connected corridors in Florida, and protect the things and serve the things that make Florida Florida.”
Putnam is the only Republican in the race so far, though state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater will be announcing his plans next week, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes reportedly are weighing the prospect. The Democrats so far are fielding former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park developer Chris King.
Most of Putnam’s 17-minute address to the chamber group Monday focused on his vow to make Florida “the most military and veteran friendly state in the nation,” a nod to the theme of the conference dubbed the “Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit.”
Yet while Putnam went through his agenda of efforts to support the military and veterans, including waiving application fees for veterans and military personnel to receive concealed weapons permits, the talk turned broader as he talked about using Florida Forever money to acquire buffers around military and other federal installations as a way to protect them from base closures and offer opportunities for expansion.
That calls in both Florida Forever and the state’s Rural Family Lands program, which he said have included considerations of creating more buffer around military bases.
“My point this morning was, look at the layers of benefits that come from that program, not only do you have the obvious water recharge, wildlife habitat, connecting corridors, public recreation areas, but in circumstances where those conservation lands are near military training ranges or bases, you’re getting the additional benefit of BRAC-proofing Florida,” he said, referring to the federal base Realignment and Closure program.
In his speech, called for all state agencies to prioritize veterans and their families in offering assistance for them to move on to civilian life, for permit fees to be waived, and for Florida to offer reciprocity to recognize military licensers for professional specialities.
Putnam also predicted that the emerging aerospace assembly industry along the Space Coast and northward to Jacksonville will lead to a new glory day for the space program in Florida, better than the days of the Apollo and space shuttle missions under NASA, which lead to boom and bust impacts.
That is the hope for the region, though the NASA jobs were lost by the thousands and so far the jobs being brought in by the private space companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX have been numbered in the scores or low hundreds.
“As we look to the future, we’ll see that the glory days of Florida’s space age will not have been the Apollo program, and will not have been the space shuttle program, but will be the joint process of civilian and military investment that is going on in Florida right now, where the factories that will build the satellites will be in Florida,” Putnam said. “The rockets will be assembled in Florida. They will be launched from Florida. They will be landed in Florida. They will be repurposed and refurbished in Florida…. And they will make 60 launches a year.”