The comments below were given to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and on March 15, 2021 by Government Relations Director Lindsay Cross
Good afternoon. This is Lindsay Cross, Government Relations Director with Florida Conservation Voters. I’m so pleased to be able to speak in support of SB1480 today. Thank you, Chair Brodeur, for sponsoring this great bill that will restore our state’s ability to use bonding to advance conservation goals. The state of Florida has been a leader in conservation with successful programs like Florida Forever and bonding can bring stability and efficiency to our proven programs.
The Legislature has used bonding for conservation purposes since 1972 per statute 259.05. Prior to the 2008 recession, it was used to provide stable funding of $300 million annually for the Florida Forever program and is the reason we have been able to protect gems like Gilchrist Blue Springs, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, and the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area.
Conservation of land and water is an investment in our future and a top priority for Floridians. In 2014, 75% of voters approved the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1) to protect funding at the state level. Per our Constitution, 33% of all revenue generated through documentary stamp taxes is automatically deposited into the State Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) for explicit conservation purposes, including land acquisition, restoration, and management.
The Water and Land Conservation Amendment was designed to set a floor for conservation funding in Florida that was directly tied to revenues generated by growth and development.
It makes good fiscal sense to use bonding again.
Despite the economic downturn and unemployment crisis facing Florida, the housing market is resilient and there was an 8.4% growth in doc stamps last year. Our state has an excellent credit rating and we’re experiencing record low federal interest rates.
As we continue to welcome close to 900 new residents to Florida each day, we need to protect our valuable natural areas so we maintain adequate water resources and provide safe places, like parks, for people to recreate.
Bonding is a useful tool that can leverage the time value of money to protect water and lands that provide valuable ecological functions and are in imminent threat from development.
I hope that you use this bill as a way to restore more consistency to our phenomenal conservation programs, including the Florida Forever, Florida Communities Trust and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Just like any well-run business – stable and adequate revenues create efficiency and excellence. Let’s continue to make Florida the envy of the nation and recommit to the conservation programs that make Florida such a great place to live.
Read SB 1480 / HB 1173