TALLAHASSEE – With two weeks remaining in the 2017 Florida Legislative Session, Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) made the following statement Wednesday on Senate Bill 364 – the Gulf Coast Corridor (Triumph) legislation, providing clarification on how the BP oil settlement money can be spent:
Today, I, along with Senator Bill Montford and Senator Doug Broxson, will be filing critical amendments to Senate Bill 364, Gulf Coast Economic Corridor (Triumph). This important legislation deals with the dispersal of funds from the Triumph Gulf Coast Settlement.
The 1.5 billion dollar award was made specifically for the economic recovery mitigating the damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2012. This settlement was targeted for building our economy in the eight Florida counties which include Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf, Bay, Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia. These are funds meant to enhance our economy to benefit all of Northwest Florida and improve the quality of life in our area. Each county will receive 5% of the settlement this year and 4% per year for the lifetime of the trust (approximately 18 years). Every project selected by a county must meet the criteria of Triumph. Only after Triumph has approved the project, will funds be allocated and released.
Senate Bill 364, Gulf Coast Economic Corridor (Triumph), is a game changer for Northwest Florida. As far back as I can remember, we have educated and trained our young people here locally only to lose countless generations to other areas offering jobs with higher pay and better opportunities. We now have the opportunity to change this cycle. I firmly believe this legislation will enable us to finally swing the pendulum in our favor.
Our Gulf Coast Economic Corridor Bill (Triumph) will allow counties to access much-needed infrastructure. This bill allows funds to be spent on tourism, sports complexes, and advertising. These projects will increase tourism, as well as benefit residents.
Our Gulf Coast Economic Corridor Bill (Triumph) allows funds to be spent in all areas of education including K-12 schools, universities, and colleges with campuses in Northwest Florida including those educational institutions that increase students’ technology skills and knowledge, encourage industry certifications, provide rigorous alternative pathways for students to meet high school graduation requirements, and initiatives to strengthen career readiness. It will also fund high demand programs of emphasis at the higher levels and the interest or aptitude for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical disciplines to pursue post-secondary education at State of Florida universities or Florida college system institutions.
Senate Bill 364 (Triumph) will enable our counties to weigh their priorities while still leaving the bulk of the money to be spent directly by Triumph to focus on the bigger picture. This could easily be the most important opportunity we will have to guarantee our children’s and grandchildren’s future. We must not lose sight of the fact this money was awarded to Northwest Florida for economic damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
This bill offers several pathways to enhance the quality of life throughout Northwest Florida. All BP monies, including the initial 5% allocation to each of the eight counties, must be spent on the following projects, which are outlined in the legislation:
- Education that prepares students for future careers
- Economic enhancement
- Economic Development Projects
- Grants that provide transferable sustainable workforce skills
- Grants to Visit Florida and Fresh from Florida for the purpose of promoting tourism and/or related content
- Funds for maintaining equipment for future catastrophes related to oil and chemical spills
This bill provides a thorough pathway to economic recovery and must be passed now or the funds will be held up another year and at risk to be hijacked by Tallahassee bureaucrats. It is our job, an opinion supported both strongly and publicly by Governor Rick Scott, to commit to passing legislation that addresses and provides remedy for the economic damages and framework to foster the economic growth that these funds were, without question, intended.
Our aim was never to push this legislation through quickly, but rather our responsibility to this generation and those to follow that we get it right. This is, quite possibly, the most important legislation Northwest Florida will see in our lifetime.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to my colleagues and co-sponsors Senator Bill Montford and Senator Doug Broxson for their contributions to this good bill. Thank you to Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and Appropriations Chairman Senator Jack Latvala for your hard work on this bill and commitment to Northwest Florida.