Homeowners and their lawyers asked the Florida Supreme Court late Tuesday to overturn Gov. Rick Scott's decision this month to veto $37.4 million intended for residents whose healthy citrus trees were cut down as the state tried to eradicate citrus-canker disease.
Lawmakers included the money in the 2017-2018 budget to compensate residents of Broward and Lee counties after years of litigation about the state's removal of trees in those counties and other parts of the state. The money would satisfy judgments against the state, which destroyed healthy trees from 2000 to 2006 as it fought citrus canker.
The filing Tuesday at the Supreme Court contended that Scott's veto of the money was unconstitutional.
“Governor Scott's veto of the citrus canker final judgment appropriations undermines the state's constitutional obligation to pay full compensation for the taking of private property,” the 19-page document said. “The constitutional provision does not afford the state the luxury of avoiding payment of the full compensation awarded to petitioners.”
The filing also contends that the Supreme Court, rather than a lower court, should address the issue before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. “Absent an immediate decision by this (Supreme) Court, the state will argue that no appropriated funds exist with which to pay and satisfy the constitutional takings judgments held by petitioners, and petitioners will be left holding constitutional takings judgments that cannot be satisfied,” the document said. “The process will continue to recur unless this (Supreme) Court puts an end to it once and for all.” In vetoing the money June 2, Scott cited “ongoing litigation” as the reason. But the filing Tuesday disputed that, saying that litigation involving Broward and Lee counties is finished.