22 million residents in Florida? State economists predict it can happen by 2022.
Florida is growing fast.
State economists predict that Florida will continue to add more than 300,000 people per year, and that it will reach 22 million residents by 2022.
Here are some challenges facing the state — and which must be addressed by Florida’s leaders.
The Floridan Aquifer, the underground source that supplies most of Florida’s drinking water, is already tapped out in some of the South’s more populated areas. Serious water supply issues are forecast in northeast Florida during the next decade.
Sea level rise
Sunny day flooding, or nuisance flooding, is already hitting many coastline areas; what used to be rare is now becoming routine.
Coastal communities will have to make difficult decisions on whether and where to build. We must prepare now for rising seas and storm surges. Mitigation is often the best and cheapest strategy but state government has not properly funded it.
Gas tax revenues have long funded road improvements, but new cars get better gas mileage and electric cars produce almost no gas tax money. That means Florida will need to find new ways to fund road improvements.
Tolls, though long hated here, are one way to fund new highway improvements; at least tolls are user-related fees. However, charges based on miles driven may be a feasible way to replace the gas tax in the future.
Protecting the coast
Florida’s elected leaders have joined together to oppose drilling off the state’s coast; so far that has been successful but vigilance is required.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has filed a bill that would place a moratorium on drilling in the South Atlantic and Straits of Florida — it would also extend the existing moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico on oil and gas leasing and exploration until 2029.
Listening to voters
Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to provide funds for conservation lands: Amendment One passed with a landslide 75 percent vote in 2014. However, legislators have swept some of the funds into operations.
Given Florida’s rapid growth rate it’s essential that land be preserved for future generations.
Quality of life
Legislators also have not supported affordable housing; they have routinely swept trust funds into the general budget. As a result too many Floridians must spend extraordinary amounts of their budgets just to keep roofs over their heads.
Legislators, especially in the House, have stubbornly refused to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid. As a result too many Floridians are still struggling to have health care. That’s why Florida has more citizens signing up for Obamacare than any other state — yet state leaders have joined a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Florida continues to waste millions on a prison system that keeps too many people expensively locked up.
Growth remains Florida’s biggest opportunity — but also its biggest challenge.
This story originally published to Jacksonville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.