Sugar Deal Not as Sweet

TAMPA -

A tight money market and tough times for taxpayers have some asking if now is the best time to spend more than $1.5 billion to buy U.S. Sugar's land to help restore the Everglades.

Late last month, State Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton said the financial times have him questioning where tax dollars are going. For example: the 'Big Sugar Deal.'

'Why are we looking at spending $1.5 billion to buy a chuck of Florida, which would be wonderful to preserve, when we've got people literally who can't get health care,' Bennett said. 'Are we spending our money the right way?'

The money would come from property taxes collected by the South Florida Water Management District. It is considering raising its legal debt limit to purchase the 187,000 acres from U.S. Sugar.

Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, is optimistic the land deal will go through.

'Much like the hurricane season in Florida comes and goes we expect these financial storms to pass,' Fordham said.

But, property tax values have dropped and bond interest rates increased since Gov. Charlie Crist first announced the U.S. Sugar buyout plan.

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