Under a budget deal reached in the Florida Legislature Wednesday, Palm Beach County homeowners who lost citrus trees to canker would receive zero compensation, while Broward and Lee County residents would split $37 million.
Gov. Rick Scott could still veto the funds, and the deal, said to be a work in progress, could change.
Palm Beach County residents are owed $28.4 million for mostly healthy trees that were removed from their backyards during the state’s failed canker eradication program.
Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Doral, said in an interview on the Florida Channel that there isn’t enough money to pay all of the millions owed to Broward, Lee and Palm Beach County residents.
Since the Broward and Lee county the cases had the oldest judgments, and had the largest amount of interest accrued, the decision was made to pay them first, Trujillo said.
Residents in those three counties and Orange County sued the state and won. Orange County property owners are owed $35.8 million, and a case is ongoing in Miami-Dade County
During the state’s battle against the bacterial fruit-blemishing disease from 1995 to 2006, the state and federal governments spent $1.6 billion destroying 16.5 million commercial and residential citrus trees.
Trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree were also destroyed, but the effort was fruitless, as the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 spread the bacterial disease. The federal government halted the eradication program in 2006.
In Palm Beach County 63,455 citrus trees were destroyed at 26,491 residential properties.
During the program, the state offered a $100 Wal-Mart voucher for the first tree it removed and $55 for each subsequent tree. Lawsuits filed against the state asserted that wasn’t enough compensation, and juries have agreed.