COUNTERPOINT: Amendment 1 a Nightmare for Conservative-Thinking Floridians

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: June 6, 2014 3:55 AM
Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith

Look closely at the pretty words in Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. I think you'll find what I did -- the polar opposite of conservative values and common sense.

Passing Amendment 1 will not -- repeat, not -- guarantee a no-tax-increase future for a clean water supply, or anything else, in Florida as its proponents claim. Quite the opposite. In a state where population is projected to grow to 30 million by 2035, there is no sure-thing magic bullet to funding every priority in 67 counties.

What Amendment 1 will guarantee is that for the next 20 years, many other urgent priorities will go begging.

Let's look at an honest financial analysis of this misleading amendment:

It would embed in the Florida Constitution for 20 years 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents.

Proponents claim all that will do is replace the minimum $300 million a year the Florida Forever program provided from 1990 through 2008.

Don't believe it.

Mark Hendrickson, president of the Hendrickson Co., is the state's guru of doc stamps -- of anything affordable housing, including finance and related legislative issues. Before he launched the Hendrickson Co., he served six governors as executive director of two different Florida housing finance agencies (HFAs). Hendrickson knows how state government works and best of all, knows when Florida taxpayers are getting the shaft.

Hendrickson explained in steps why Amendment 1 has crushing ramifications:

1. "Doc stamp collection goes up and down," he said, "depending on real estate activity. But (Amendment 1) locks in 33 percent of revenues for environmental programs. That's not 1 percent of the budget. It will vary every year."

2. "To get their 33 percent, they took what has been fairly level environmental spending and divided it by one of the lowest doc stamp collection years, then they say, 'Oh, look, 33 percent only gives us our usual spending.'"

3. "They're locking in significantly more money than their historic averages. It's money that in the revenue projections going forward was heading into general revenue. It's going to put a big hole in the general revenue budget."

4. "To put real numbers on that 33 percent in the last fiscal year, it's $425 million. Project out to 2015-2016, you're up to $550 million; in 2021, well over $700 million. They're acting like they're only getting their current fair share, but they're locking in significantly more than they ever had before."

5. "It's very clever the way they say they're just getting their share. They claim the debt service on their bonds comes from general revenue now. But between now and next year, the bond will be paid off and the debt service will drop massively. This year the budget has $430 million in it to pay environmental lands debt service, but next year it will drop to $173 million. The Legislature may think they're getting back $257 million, but they won't."

6. "In the end, what happens is, when there's a shortfall in general revenue, as there will be, legislators will be forced to look for money somewhere else. That's when they start deepening their raids on trust funds. They have no choice."

Embedding in the Constitution payouts of vast percentages of revenue is no way to budget state priorities, and it certainly isn't remotely conservative.

After 9/11, the state lost a large chunk of its tourism income for months on end. In 2005, lawmakers plowed money into hurricane recovery. Disasters happen. Unforeseen circumstances arise. But the more things we treat like the Class Size Amendment -- and now, maybe, land acquisition -- the more it sews up taxpayer dollars and the fewer options it gives lawmakers to dig their way out of emergencies without beheading other priorities.

There are other reasons to roundly dislike Amendment 1 -- for example, the glut of publicly held land it will create because, after all, the Constitution will tell us we must buy land. Not only will chunks of it come off the tax rolls, it must all be maintained -- and that will be a sizable taxpayer expenditure. I plan to write more about that before Voting Day.

For now, just ask yourself, how many more expenditures are we going to find to seal up in the Constitution? What will the next one be? Taxpayers need to mount an offensive of their own against built-in-forever, pay-up-front causes du jour like the Vote Yes on Amendment 1 Campaign.

I feel confident that when Florida voters understand the full implications of this fiscal mess of an amendment -- never mind the assault on the state Constitution and budgeting process -- they will vote a resounding "No."

Much of the information in this column was first reported in a May 15, 2013 Nancy Smith column,"'No' to Budgeting Through the Constitution." Reach Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

Comments (11)

9:02PM SEP 7TH 2014
I support Amendment 1. We need to protect our wild lands. It is what brings people to Florida, it fills our aquifers. Some of this money will support existing lands. It also reduces flooding by purchasing wetlands that need to be protected.

Destroying the environment hurts Florida Tax Payers. Open space increases land values and tax revenues.
11:28AM JUN 7TH 2014
I've known Mark for over 30 years . . . he's never been a big supporter of the environmental use of doc stamps as he's felt they inherently compete with the potential for those funds to be used for affordable housing, his bailiwick . . . . I respect his views, but he has no solution for the environmental funding issue . . . . except to say, don't do it this way, as it may someday hurt legislative support for funding affordable housing . . . . that's not a solution, only turf protection . . . . .
Nick Penniman
7:17AM JUN 7TH 2014
I was a Goldwater campaign volunteer in 1964 and have been a life-long registered Republican. Conservation of lands for public use and enjoyment is a conservative value. I plan to vote "yes" on Amendment 1!
Bill Chambers
3:00PM JUN 6TH 2014
I'm as conservative as they come, and I disagree with you vehemently. The budget for conservation has been cut 97% under the Scott administration and our springs, watershed, Everglades, and wetlands have suffered greatly. We need to take the control of conservation spending away from the arbitrary and ever changing winds of the legislature and governor. If Florida's economy is to prosper we MUST take care of our environment. Don't be short-sighted. I'm a lifelong Republican and I'm voting YES.
C Breeze
3:26PM JUN 6TH 2014
Gee, that's just swell !.....Now tell me YOUR plan (none of the others worked) to eradicate the Burmese Python from the Everglades, known the "big 20 to 30 foot snake" that is reproducing like a ghetto resident and decimating the wildlife (fish, fowl & mammal) to the point of extinction in the Everglades. These pythons will soon be in ponds, rivers and watershed areas in YOUR neighborhoods....Check it out, do some research. I disagree "vehemently" with your "Holly-go-lightly- head-firmly-buried-in-the-sand" POLITICAL rhetoric. I'm a lifelong THINKER and I'm voting NO ! (Admit it, you are 'campaign worker wonk', aren't you?)
Bill Chambers
5:22PM JUN 7TH 2014
Excuse me, what does passing Amendment 1 have to do with eradicating the Burmese Python from the Everglades? Amendment 1 is not just about buying conservation land; it's much more than that. Our springs have become severely polluted, our aquifers has been overpumped for decades now, we have salt water encroachment into our aquifer in some places, and all you're worried about is the Burmese Python? I agree the python is invasive and should be eradicated, but let's look at the "big picture" as well. And yes, I'm a proud campaign volunteer. Whether I'm a wonk or not is still being hotly debated. LOL.
11:15AM JUN 7TH 2014
Oh, you mean those exotics animals that you'll fight tooth-and-nail from being regulated, as that's just un-American and a constitutional private property right, correct . . . .

Pathetic . . . . .
C Breeze
9:57AM JUN 6TH 2014
FOLKS: "NO" "NO" "NO" "NO" to 'Amendment 1'.....The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ALREADY OWNS one third of Florida and Floridians are already beset by overbearing Federal regulations and intrusive "socialist thought processes"; Florida is a "sportsman's mecca" and the United Nation's "Agenda 21" nightmare is slowly, with the help of socialist irrationality, 'bleeding' America of it's hunting and fishing culture. Anyone who knows Allison DeFoor, the 'bow-tie wearing dweeb" and major driving force behind 'Amendment 1' , should "RUN FROM AMENDMENT ONE !". Also: Remember folks, Jeb Bush is a proponent of this nonsense, as well as "Amnesty", "Common Core" and the rest of the "One World Government" hogwash....."STAY OUT OF THE BUSHES" folks, and reject their "minions & toadies" ....
11:18AM JUN 7TH 2014
Yes, yes, "Agenda 21" . . . the rightwing nut conspiracy theory that the U.N. is overtaking the sovereignty of the U.S. through the UN's imposition of 100-year old zoning and other regulations that predate the UN's founding after WWII . . . . . . delusional, as well as clearly . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Barney Bishop III
6:47AM JUN 6TH 2014
Nancy, I wholeheartedly agree with you and Mark HEndrickson...thi is a VERY bad idea...we can't manage the state lands that we own now and this will only make the problem addition, the enviro's will demand that all of this new land stay pristine so that those of us who are hunters will not have access to this land...the feds and the state already own a signficant chunk of Florida, I believe about 25%...the government doesn't need to own anymore land!
11:26AM JUN 7TH 2014
Gee, Barney . . . guess we'll just have to stop that everglades restoration (and don't believe anyone who tells you Florida has acquired all needed lands) . . . . and the buying of ANY more state land for any purpose . . . you know, like for new roads, new universities and the like . . . . such broad statements typically end up rebounding as they're almost always . . . .

Pathetic . . . .

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