BY JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – Florida has surpassed the 20 million-population mark while growing faster than California.
The Sunshine State, adding more than 1,000 people a day, is nearly up a half-million people on New York, which it surpassed a year ago to become the third most-populous state, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.
Florida, with an estimated 20,271,272 residents as of July 1, is also growing faster than a year earlier, when 803 people a day were being added to the state’s head count.
“Governor (Rick) Scott is proud that more people continue to move to Florida,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a prepared statement. “Our hardworking businesses have created more than 1 million jobs in just five years, we have historic funding for education and we are in a 44-year low on our crime rate.”
The new numbers come as lawmakers prepare to deal with a wide range of issues affected by the growing population, including water issues.
Noting that Florida faces a projected 1-billion-gallons-a-day water shortfall by 2030, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been pushing for proposed statewide water policy changes (SB 552 and HB 7005), which are expected to be among the first items lawmakers take up when the regular legislative session begins in January.
“Florida’s increasing population will continue to stress our critical water resources,” Putnam spokesman Aaron Keller said in an email Tuesday.
“While Florida has made great progress in restoring the health of our water supply and conserving our water resources, we need to act now. We must invest more in water supply planning and alternative supply development to meet the needs of this growing population and continue to support a thriving economy while balancing the needs of our natural environment.”
Many from Puerto Rico
More people also means eventually Florida will have a larger congressional delegation. In 1910, New York had 43 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to Florida’s four. Both states now have 27 seats.
Part of the state’s growth is attributed to an exodus from the economically challenged U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which the Census report said declined in population by 1.7 percent over the past year.
In overall population, Florida remains behind California, now with 39.14 million residents, and Texas, with 27.5 million people.
Only Texas had more net population growth in the past year than Florida, growing by 490,036 residents to Florida’s 365,703. California added 352,527 people. Georgia was fourth with 117,728 new residents.