Amendment 1: Let’s See Funds Spent Right–OSFR Op-Ed, Lake City Reporter

Florida took a huge step in the right direction by adopting Amendment 1, but we are at a crucial moment and in order to hold on to what we are about to acquire, we must take some careful steps. The most important thing at this time is to let your legislators know that you want to keep the spirit and intent of the amendment.

The Lake City Reporter published OSFR’s latest op-ed dealing with the dispersion of Amendment 1 funds. Following is a re-print of this article. OSFR is grateful to Robert Bridges and the Lake City Reporter for printing out opinion piece on Sunday, February 15, 2015.

SPRINGS PROTECTION FUNDING AT A CRITICAL JUNCTURE

Wow! We just got 757.7 million to spend next year, how will we spend it? No, we didn’t win the lottery, this is the amount Amendment1 will bring in just one year to help restore and preserve Florida’s environment. Over the next 20 years, it is projected to bring in between ten and 18 billion. Of this, many of those voting in the amendment would like to see about one third go to springs restoration and protection.

This yearly amount is less than the 300 million that the existing Florida Forever land acquisition program formerly counted on per year before being decimated in 2009. It is safe to say that the voters who put Amendment1 into the Constitution had not forgotten this and wanted to restore the health and purposes of this program when they overwhelmingly approved the amendment last November.

Ever since the initial celebration and jubilation by environmentalists immediately following the landslide passage of Amendment1, there have been increasing concerns about how the windfall of funds will be spent.

Some groups want huge percentages spent on things not emphasized in the Land Acquisition Program, such as on septic tanks and water supply. Items such as these and similar ones such as wastewater infrastructure can be addressed locally and by state-insured bonds and by funding sources such as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and not Amendment1

Environmentalists are rightly suspicious of their legislators when it involves issues of protecting our Florida’s natural resources, since when it comes down to the dollar, it seems, historically, that big corporations usually end up on the fat side and the environment on the lean.

Activity has already begun in Tallahassee, as Senator Charles Dean, Chair of our Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation has already convened a public meeting and is calling for citizens’ input as to dividing up the allocations. And, as of this writing, he has received over 4,000 responses.

Two main concerns have surfaced regarding the Amendment1 issue: one is a concern as to how much of the funds will be used for what program, and that the allocations must be faithful to the categories outlined in the amendment as voted on by the people. The second is that the current funding for environmental programs not be eliminated and used elsewhere since a lot of new monies will come from Amendment1.

Senate President Andy Gardiner has issued a memo explaining that Florida law-makers are required to do three things to implement the amendment:

1) transfer 33 percent of the documentary stamp tax money to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) which is within the DEP (about 457.7 million for next fiscal year.)
2) Use this money as specified in the amendment
3) Prevent the co-mingling of these funds with the state’s general revenue

Sen. Dean has proposed 6 new bills to effect the re-directing of funding for existing programs. This re-directing will eliminate their trust funds, but now the dollars from the amendment will be identifiable and will remain traceable.

7 now-existing trust funds will be terminated although their programs will continue. If these trust funds are now already being generated by the documentary stamp tax, then concerns for revenue loss would be unfounded, as these monies would not be shuttled elsewhere, just augmented by the new amendment. If, on the other hand, a substantial amount of the current trust fund monies are from general revenues and sources other than the stamp tax, then the concerns are that new funds should not be a substitute for them, or the overall result would be a loss for these programs.

The Legislature should definitely not use any of Amenment1 funds to replace any of what the state spends at this time on springs protection or any other environmental programs – that funding should continue, and any programs now funded from general revenue should not be transferred over to the documentary stamp tax sources, and this is the message we need to deliver to Senator Dean’s office. To do so would defeat the purpose of the amendment and be contrary to its intent.

The current co-mingling of stamp tax funds, penalties, fines, fees and taxes makes it difficult if not impossible to determine exact amounts and exact sources. Perhaps that was designed that way for purposes of convenience.

Florida took a huge step in the right direction by adopting Amendment 1, but we are at a crucial moment and in order to hold on to what we are about to acquire, we must take some careful steps. The most important thing at this time is to let your legislators know that you want to keep the spirit and intent of the amendment.

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is president of Our Santa Fe River, Inc., and Jim Tatum is the organization’s historian. Both are from Fort White

 links for Susan
Back to top
Skip to content