Key senator expects environment amendment to pass
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 24, 2014 – The next Florida Senate president is advising natural springs advocates in his chamber to start planning for an influx of voter-approved money for water and land conservation next year.
Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, doesn't support the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment that will go before voters this November – he doesn't consider it the right way to put a budget together. However, he said Wednesday that he's seen the poll numbers, and they suggest that the amendment has enough support – a minimum 60 percent of Florida voters – for passage.
"There is a very good chance that Amendment 1 potentially passes," Gardiner said. "That potentially starts the discussion on how to do springs, how to do the cleanup. How do you do the land acquisition? So, what I've asked the senators (to do) is to be building for the anticipation that it is going to pass."
The approval of Amendment 1 should create a pot of cash for lawmakers to designate for land conservation and management across the state by setting aside 33 percent of the revenues from the state's documentary stamp tax, paid when real estate is sold, for 20 years. Under the amendment, the money must be used to acquire conservation and recreation lands, manage existing lands, protect lands that are critical for water supply and restore degraded natural systems.
The proposal could generate $10 billion over its life, according to supporters of the amendment.
Gardiner made the remarks after talking with five state senators that had hoped to use the tax on real-estate transactions in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Until Tuesday, the five senators' measure (SB 1579) sought to shift an estimated $378 million a year from doc stamp taxes into springs restoration and protection. But the funding was removed as they try to advance the measure knowing that there is little appetite in the House to approve such a funding level.
The Senate budget currently calls for $22.8 million to be spent on spring conservation in the next fiscal year, and the House spending plan earmarks $45 million. The final number could be something in the middle.
"We have to meld them together," Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said Wednesday.
Gov. Rick Scott has recommended $55 million, up from the $10 million that lawmakers set aside for springs last year.Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner