By BRUCE RITCHIE
Sen. President Andy Gardiner said Thursday that a five-year planning process for land purchases and water projects may be a good idea following voter approval last month of Amendment 1.
The amendment provides one-third of revenue from an excise tax on real estate to water and land conservation. Amendment 1 was approved by 75 percent of voters statewide.
This week, fiscal analysts estimated the tax would generate $1.9 billion in the coming fiscal year, meaning that nearly $704 million could be earmarked for conservation. The Revenue Estimating Conference said legislative action is required.
Amendment 1 already has generated debate about whether voters wanted to buy land with the money as opposed to spending to improve sewage treatment.
Meanwhile, supporters of greenways are asking that 10 percent of Amendment 1 revenue go towards a statewide trail network that could cost $2.6 billion.
“I would imagine everybody’s got a carve-out they’re going to want,” Gardiner, R-Orlando, said Thursday.
He said the Senate is reviewing the state budget to determine what spending now qualifies under Amendment 1.
“We’re already spending more than what the 33 percent (Amendment 1) would force you to do,” Gardiner said.
And he said he expects Amendment 1 to be the focus of Senate committee meetings in January.
“It’s important we hear from the supporters of Amendment 1,” Gardiner told reporters. “What did they anticipate when they drafted it? If you had 10 attorneys in a room, you’d get 10 different opinions on what you could do with Amendment 1.”
As a former Senate transportation committee chairman, Gardiner said the five-year work programs used in transportation planning may be a good idea for land acquisition and water projects.
“It allows local communities to plan,” he said. “It gives you some flexibility that if there is some land that needs to be acquired, you could do it in a partnership. Because everybody knows what that five-year plan is.”
Now, legislators decide funding for water projects while the Florida Department of Environmental Protection awards funding for springs improvement. The state’s land acquisition priority list and work plan is approved by the governor and Cabinet.
(This story was revised Dec. 29 to reflect the estimated revenue from Amendment 1 for fiscal 2015-16 rather than the current fiscal year. Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not copy, forward or reproduce without permission, which can be received from bruceBritchie@gmail.com.)