All photos copyright Deborah Nelson
League of Women Voters of Florida: Stop spending Florida Forever funds on other things
By League of Women Voters of Florida
May 22, 2015
Editor’s Note: Florida voters passed a Constitutional amendment last November that allocates 33 percent of state document stamp taxes towards Florida’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Previous estimates predict between $625 and about $760 million for this fiscal year. The measure sunsets in 2035.
Attn: Florida State Senate
Florida House of Representatives
From: League of Women Voters of Florida, Convention Assembly
Dear Honorable Legislators,
On your first day in office, you swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the State of Florida.
Article X, Section 28 of that Constitution reads as follows:
Section 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
- a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.
- b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:
1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.
2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).
- c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.
As you approach the special session in June, the LWVF asks that you give careful attention to Section 28 as to the prime directive of this part of the Constitution stated in subparagraph (a)(1) which expressly mentions the word “acquisition” in the first line. Acquisition of Florida’s special lands and resources is no longer a matter of political ideology, but a matter of Constitutional law.
Both the House and Senate severely underfund the Florida Forever program in their proposed budgets.
We look to our Legislative leaders to reassess the allocations proposed by each body. The proposed allocations are inconsistent with the directive of the 4.2 million Floridians who voted for Amendment 1. The League of Women Voters of Florida calls on you to implement the will of the voters by increasing funding for the Florida Forever program to Bush-era levels of $300 million per year.
Secondly, we call your attention to paragraph (c) which states that Amendment 1 funds shall not be commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state. Both the House and Senate propose shifting at least $230 million in existing agency operating expenses from the General Revenue Fund into the fund for Amendment 1. The use of Amendment 1 dollars to supplant agency operating expenses is an issue of paramount concern to our membership. This commingling of funds is both unconstitutional and a violation of the will and the intent of the voters. We ask that such fund-shifting be eliminated in your upcoming budget negotiations.
The League of Women Voters of Florida is committed to the goal of good governance. We are confident that you share that goal and our commitment to defend the Constitution of the State of Florida.
The LWVF calls on Florida’s legislators to uphold the letter and the intent of Florida’s electorate by restoring Florida Forever funding to historic levels and by prohibiting the use of Amendment 1 dollars for general revenue expenses.
Our members feel that they have been disenfranchised and are as intent on seeing this amendment honored as they were in those amendments of the past.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
1st Vice President