Last November, 75 percent of Floridians, or 4.2 million people, voted to add Amendment 1 to the Florida Constitution. The amendment allocates a portion of the document stamp tax to buy up sensitive environmental lands as a way to safeguard Florida’s tourism economy while protecting water resources. It’s expected to raise about $750 million in revenue next year for such land purchases. What could go wrong?
“The money is supposed to be spent on land acquisition and water resource protection,” said Frank Jackalone, staff director for the Sierra Club of Florida, “not to pay for existing state employees at state environmental agencies.”
Environmental attorney and former president of the Florida Audubon Society Clay Henderson helped write the amendment and echoed the same sentiment in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
“There’s no question about what the emphasis was,” Henderson said. “It was Florida Forever. We were clear about that.”
But when the Florida House and Senate released their budget proposals, anger ensued.
The House proposed only $10 million for land acquisition, and the Senate proposed only $35 million for Florida Forever. Other funding goes toward administrative costs for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida’s five water management districts. Senate staff has said the only clear requirement is that the program must spend the funds on environmental conservation.
A slew of op-eds from all over Florida accuse the state Legislature of ignoring the voters’ intent.
Lawmakers have till the end of this month to iron out those pesky details before the 2015 session ends. Jackalone isn’t optimistic.
“I think this is an issue that will wind up in court,” he said.