On November 4th, voters statewide will be asked to approve Amendment #1 to the constitution, which will set aside funding for purchasing environmentally sensitive land to protect water resources and wildlife habitat.
As of January 2014, more than 683,000 signatures have been obtained from 14 districts.
The Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment requires no new taxes. Instead, it calls for one third of the documentary tax paid on real estate transactions to be set aside for conservation spending programs, such as land purchases, management, and Everglades restoration.
The amendment would allocate 33% of existing excise tax on documents (the Documentary Stamp Tax) to fund these projects. Amendment backers, which include such groups as Audubon Florida, the Sierra Club and 1000 Friends of Florida, estimate the measure could raise as much as $10 billion over its 20-year life. If approved, the measure would go into effect July 1, 2015, and would expire in 2035.
While the amendment is a continuation of the collection of funds from the Florida Documentary Stamp Tax, this amendment would restrict the use of the funds for the very specific purposes of land and water preservation. It also would prevent the Florida Legislature from using these funds for other purposes. In addition, the amendment would not increase or decrease revenues or costs to the state or local governments, and would not use condemnation as a tool for acquisition. It also would not increase the rate of any tax, and continue the historical precedent of water and land preservation protection, which was the major recommendation of my chairmanship of Florida’s Environmental Future to then Governor Robert Martinez.
Florida once led the nation in environmental land purchases with programs named Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever, both of which were financed by using Documentary Stamp taxes. However, in recent years, the Legislature has sharply cut the money used for land buying, and fund balances are diminishing.
It may be that the Water and Land Legacy Amendment is warranted simply because it accomplishes a worthwhile goal, does not increase taxes or create new ones, and would benefit not only Martin County but the entire state. There also seems to be wide support for this proposal from a divergent source of individuals and groups who seem willing to make a long-term commitment and investment in the future of our state.