Amendment One – a proposal to collect $18B in documentary stamps over twenty years primarily for land acquisition – brings to our state several dangers that raise serious questions.
First, how much government owned and controlled conservation land do we need? Twenty-eight percent of Florida is already in conservation. Add another 3% for government facilities and we have over 30% of our state owned and controlled by government. According to Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News, Florida has “more land under public ownership per square mile than any other east of the Mississippi.”
Second, is it wise to insert a part of our state’s budget into the constitution thus limiting the budgeting authority of the Legislature? It is the Legislature’s responsibility to work with the Governor to craft an annual balanced budget to meet the needs of our state. Through the Legislature, all the needs (including environmental) are considered, debated, and approved by our elected representatives, not just those of a single special interest.
Third, have you considered the impact decreasing acreages of private property will have on local needs such as education, roads, infrastructure, and public safety? When property is moved from private ownership to government ownership, it is moved off the tax rolls. Less taxable property means less tax revenue. Local governments will have the choice to lower their spending or raise property taxes. Which decision do you think they’ll make?
Fourth, do you know that most groups endorsing this amendment are special interests pushing an environmentalist/sustainable development agenda? Their petition and campaign has been funded and directed in large part by a Boston-based 501(c)(4). The Conservation Campaign and The Trust for Public Land have been directly involved in one-quarter of all US conservation finance measures since 1996, generating $35 billion in new public funding for land conservation. Florida is one of their top priority targets.
Fifth, does government ownership of land enhance wise purchasing practices to protect taxpayer money, good stewardship maintenance of land, or making more land open to the public? US Congressmen representing the state of Utah (87% federally owned) will tell you “No.”
The American free market system encourages willing buyers and sellers to transact agreements, and there is a place for government to own land. But, government should not be handed enormous amounts of tax payer money to buy and control land.
The American dream was founded upon the principle of private citizens owning and using property as a protection against the potential tyranny of the state. More government ownership threatens that principle with no guarantees of better land stewardship.
Alternatives exist to conserve land. For example, rather than buying private farms, the state could simply buy their conservation rights. The cost would be much less while keeping farms in production and on the tax rolls.
Amendment One brings many dangers to our state and is promoted by very driven and well-funded special interest groups. These things should be considered before writing an $18 B check to Amendment One advocates.
Coalition for Property Rights