Monroe County is the southernmost county in Florida and includes the Florida Keys. Its coastline extends from the Everglades all the way to the Dry Tortugas, encompassing the third-largest coral reef in the world, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, three national parks, five state parks, four national wildlife refuges and three state aquatic reserves. Quite simply, the area’s environmental significance is immense.
But the economic significance of the area also cannot be ignored. Monroe’s economy generates more than $4.6 billion annually in positive economic activity. In fact, the county’s tourism, military, commercial and recreational fishing industries together generate more than $200 million in sales-tax revenue annually for the state, making the Florida Keys the highest per-capita generator of sales tax for the state.
However, these industries are intrinsically linked to the Keys’ one-of-a-kind environment. This is why Monroe County puts its full support behind the Florida Keys Stewardship Act — Senate Bill 770, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and House Bill 447, sponsored by Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo.
This act designates $25 million a year for 10 years to address the area’s most significant environmental needs: nearshore water-quality protection through wastewater, stormwater and canal water restoration; water-supply protection; and land investment for critical habitat protection, public safety, property rights and military-base protection.
Just like the Keys’ water, it’s clear to see this unique area of the state has so much to offer. Passing this Act is paramount to ensuring this doesn’t change. We are grateful for the Legislature and Governor’s past support, and we look forward to working with them to advance this meaningful initiative during the 2016 Legislative Session.
George Neugent, mayor pro tem, Monroe County Board of County Commissioners, Marathon