Land Buying Amendment Closing in on Success

A third of every dollar in taxes on real estate deals in Florida goes into a trust fund. The money is supposed to be used to buy land to conserve. But each year lawmakers raid the trust fund and leave only a portion, if any, for land conservation.

After being cut year after year, environmentalists are close to collecting enough signatures to force a vote next November. If successful, lawmakers would have to spend the money on land and water conservation.

"We think by next week we'll cross the nine hundred ten thousand mark and that is, you know if you collect 910,000 you essentially have 25% that aren't valid, we're comfortable that that's going to get us- that's going to get us there," said Aliki Moncrief.

In its first year the amendment would guarantee about 650 million for land purchases, it would grow each year as the state grows.

"It's basically taking a portion of a fee that's collected anyway, it's a collection that is very much tied to development," said Moncrief.

No one opposed this amendment when it was before the Florida Supreme Court, but that is about to be changing.

State lawmakers who control purse strings are starting to complain, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says he supports conserving land, but, "It seems like bad public policy to try write the state's budget into the constitution."

If approved by 60% those who vote next November, the Amendment would only stay in the Constitution for the next 20 years.

Environmentalists say two million acres of land have already been identified for conservation.

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