UPDATED: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 2:20 PM
Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed a part of the state budget that would’ve compensated residents in Lee and Broward Counties years after the state removed their healthy citrus trees. The 16-year battle for reimbursement continues.
In the early 2000s, Florida agriculture officials destroyed about 34,000 healthy citrus trees in Lee County and more than 130,000 in Broward County. The state tried, but failed, to eradicate the bacterial disease called citrus canker. So any non-infected tree that was within 90 feet of an infected one was removed.
Retiree Linda Stroh of Cape Coral was part of the class action lawsuit to get repayment for her demolished tree. Juries in Lee and Broward both decided in favor of compensation some years ago. And it was up to the Florida lawmakers to work the repayment into the state budget.
She said she was relieved when the state Legislature finally set aside more than $37 million for both counties this year to pay Floridians back. But now she said she’s very disappointed in Gov. Scott for vetoing the money she and thousands of others are owed.
"I've always supported him and his effort to make Florida more job-friendly," said Stroh about Scott. "And certainly I support his efforts for education, but I just don’t see any rationale for avoiding this payment that is due the home owners. It doesn’t make sense to put it off again and again and again."
And she said the longer Florida waits to repay its residents, the more dollars the state will owe in interest. Stroh said this is not over, and her attorney will continue to fight as he has for more than a decade.
Citrus tree owners in Orange and Palm Beach Counties are still waiting on the Florida Legislature to figure their compensation into the budget, as well.
McKinely Lewis, a spokesperson for Scott, said in an email that the veto was due to similar ongoing litigation in Miami-Dade County. But the lawyer for residents in Lee and Broward, Bobby Gilbert, said the future outcome of the Miami-Dade case will not affect the already concluded jury trials of the other counties.