Environmental groups have launched a petition drive for a constitutional amendment that would earmark $10 billion in state funds over 20 years for conservation programs. As an amendment, it would cement funding formulas for land purchases and conservation efforts that lawmakers could not change without voter approval.
At issue is money for the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund, created by lawmakers in 1963 to support land buys for public recreation and conservation. Since 1968, it has been supported with money from documentary stamps, taxes paid on real estate transactions involving deeds and other documents recorded with the clerk of the court. During the height of the real estate boom in Florida this brought in $3 billion in revenue but when the real estate market tanked the tax revenue dropped to $1 billion. Lawmakers then upped the percentage of doc stamp revenue that could be used to pay off bond debt. That resulted in steep cuts and in some cases elimination of money for environmental programs traditionally paid for with doc stamp taxes. Money for the Land Acquisition Trust Fund dropped from $265 million in the 2006-2007 fiscal year to $85.4 million in fiscal year 2010-2011.
Members of the campaign include the Trust for Public Land, Audubon Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, 1000 Friends of Florida and Defenders of Wildlife.