What is Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment?
Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, dedicates funding for water and land conservation, management, and restoration by amending the state constitution. Amendment 1 sets aside 33 percent of Florida’s existing excise tax on documents (also known as the “documentary stamp tax” paid when real estate is sold) and guarantees that these funds can be used only for conservation purposes, including keeping pollution out of Florida’s drinking water supplies, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters and protecting natural areas and wildlife habitat.
Where will the money go? How does this measure benefit Floridians?
The money will be used for water and land conservation, management, and restoration in Florida. The funds dedicated by Amendment 1 will:
All this will be achieved with no increase in taxes.
Why did we need to amend the state constitution?
Since 2009, the Legislature has dramatically reduced funding for water and land protection, cutting key programs by more than 95%. Amendment 1 would ensure that water and land conservation projects are adequately funded – the funds cannot be diverted to other purposes – without increasing taxes. The only way to secure significant, sustainable resources for water and land conservation, management and restoration for the long-term is to take this issue directly to Florida voters through a constitutional amendment.
How much will this cost me? Will it increase my taxes?
Amendment 1 will not increase taxes now or in the future. It simply identifies a portion of the existing fees collected by the state when real estate is sold, and dedicates those funds to water and land conservation, management and restoration. This is the same funding source that the state has used for water and land conservation since 1968.
Aren’t there more important needs in our state?
In Florida, we depend on our natural systems for clean drinking water, unpolluted rivers, lakes, and streams, and the unspoiled natural beauty that makes our state unique. Because Florida relies on its beaches, springs, rivers, lakes, and parks as a key part of our tourism economy, we can’t afford not to protect our land and waters. Florida has many critical funding needs, including education, health care, public safety, and transportation – but water and land conservation are a vital component of Florida’s future. The current state budget is more than $77 billion, and Amendment 1 will set aside less than 1 percent for water and land conservation.
If this funding goes to conservation, will that mean cuts to other vital services?
No. If all of the water and land conservation programs eligible for “doc stamp” funding today were funded at current or historic levels, that amount would be much more than the 33 percent Amendment 1 would dedicate to water and land conservation. In fact, in some years, nearly 50 percent of the “doc stamp” was allocated to Amendment 1-eligible purposes. Amendment 1 will take an amount similar to what historically has been used for water and land conservation and dedicate it for that same purpose, but with constitutional protections. The impartial analysis of Amendment 1 by the state’s Fiscal Impact Estimating Conference shows that, absent changes by the Legislature, the level of funding distributed to non-conservation purposes will still grow after approval of Amendment 1.
How do I know the funds will be spent wisely?
Florida’s conservation programs have a great track record of spending these funds wisely. Amendment 1 ensures that funds are used solely for conservation purposes and cannot be used for any other purpose by the Legislature. Using the state’s existing successful programs as a model, objective criteria will continue to determine how funds are spent in order to keep politics out of the process.
Florida Forever and its predecessor Preservation 2000, for example, have been the most successful state land conservation programs in the nation, protecting more than 2.4 million acres of critical water resources, natural areas, wildlife habitat, parks, greenways and trails. Restoration of the Florida Everglades is the most comprehensive ecological restoration project in history. Florida’s land managing agencies and water management districts have done a tremendous job restoring degraded natural systems, including the state’s longleaf pine forests, the upper St. Johns River watershed and Rookery Bay. Amendment 1 ensures funding so that this critical restoration work will continue.
Now that Amendment 1 has passed, who will be in charge of the money?
While citizens can dedicate funding for water and land conservation in the state constitution, we cannot appropriate funds via the constitution. Appropriations are solely the Legislature's responsibility. Fortunately, Florida has a number of excellent programs already in place for making project selection decisions. The state has a stellar track record of selecting conservation projects based on objective criteria and science, which includes review by citizens and oversight panels composed of experts from the appropriate fields. The existing Acquisition and Restoration Council is one good example. Amendment 1 does not change these existing project selection systems. So while the Legislature must appropriate the funds, the existing tried and true systems in place for project selection would not change now that Amendment 1 has been ratified.
Does Amendment 1 require implementing legislation?
The intent of the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, as ratified by the voters, is to restore spending for a highly successful group of long-standing programs authorized in Florida statutes. Amendment 1 was drafted so that no implementing legislation is required; the Legislature could simply appropriate funds to existing water and land conservation programs.
Amendment 1 will absorb state spending currently authorized under state law for existing debt service for Preservation 2000, Florida Forever, Save our Everglades, and Save our Coasts Bonds.
Amendment 1 will enhance state spending currently authorized through trust funds and other programs approved under state law for:
o Land Acquisition through the Florida Forever
o Conservation Easements through the Rural and Family Lands program
o Everglades Restoration
o Land acquisition for Everglades Restoration and Northern Everglades, and Estuaries
o Water Resource Protection and Restoration (Surface Water Improvement and Management)
o Access and management of state-owned lands and water management lands
o Greenways and Trails
o Florida Communities Trust
o Historic Preservation
o Florida Recreation and Development Assistance Program
Haven’t we bought enough land already?
Florida cannot thrive without an abundant supply of drinking water for its 19 million residents. But the state’s drinking water sources and its rivers, lakes, and streams are threatened by pollution. Our natural systems, including those already in public ownership, will continue to decline and will be unable to provide the benefits we all depend on without adequate funds for management and restoration. Seventy-two percent of Florida – 25 million acres – is privately owned. An additional 2 million acres have been identified for conservation, including lands necessary to protect the water quality of our state’s most important springs, rivers, and coastal areas.
What is the excise tax on documents?
The excise tax on documents, also known as the “documentary stamp tax,” is an existing fee collected by the state when real estate is sold. This fee has been in place since the early 1900s and is the same funding source that the state has used for water and land conservation since 1968. By dedicating a portion of this existing fee to water and land conservation, Amendment 1 will not increase taxes now or in the future.
Why the documentary stamp tax?
The documentary stamp tax is the same funding source that has been used since 1968 to protect natural areas, wildlife habitat, and water quality in Florida. Recently, however, it has been diverted for other purposes. The “doc stamp” has paid for Preservation 2000, Florida Forever, Everglades restoration, and many other water and land conservation programs in the past. It makes sense that when land is developed or changes hands, at least a portion of the transaction fees go to help conserve water and land. Amendment 1 dedicates the historic state funding source for these purposes.
How did Amendment 1 get on the November 2014 ballot?
Because our elected leaders refused to adequately fund water and land conservation, citizens had to take matters into their own hands. Conservation, civic, and other organizations from throughout the state organized Florida’s Water and Land Legacy to collect signatures and place the Water and Land Conservation Amendment on the November ballot via the initiative petition process. In a little more than eighteen months, the campaign built a significant volunteer infrastructure and met every pre-requisite for qualification, including successful review by the Financial Impact Estimating Conference, unanimous approval by the Supreme Court, and certification of well in excess of the minimum number of required petition signatures. With more 709,976 signatures certified, the Amendment formally qualified as “Amendment No. 1” on the November 2014 ballot.
When will it take effect?
Amendment 1 will go into effect on July 1, 2015.
How much money will be generated?
Based on current projections, Amendment 1 will provide more than $10 billion over the next 20 years for conservation, management, and restoration of our waters and land.
How long will it last?
Amendment 1 will dedicate one-third of funds from the documentary stamp tax for the next 20 years. This is the amount of time necessary to generate sufficient funds to complete critical land and water conservation, management, and restoration projects.
Who is involved?
We hope you will be! Leading state conservation and civic organizations and businesses started the campaign and every day new organizations and individuals join our coalition. We’ve built a broad coalition that includes conservation groups, outdoor recreation organizations, business leaders, local communities and volunteers across Florida. View our full list of endorsers.