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Florida's Amendment 1 Will Lead to
Higher Property Taxes

by William C. Coleman III, Orlando and Tony Garcia, Fort Lauderdale, January 2015

 

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 in the November general election. Amendment 1 designates billions of state dollars to convert privately owned land to publicly owned land for conservation purposes. Scholarly experts say its passage was actually a vote to increase property taxes.

 

Long-term Funding

 

For the next 20 years, Amendment 1 dedicates 33% of net revenues from the excise tax on documents, also known as the doc stamp tax, to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

 

The goal is to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation land including:

 

  • Wetlands and forests

  • Fish and wildlife habitats

  • Outdoor recreational lands

  • Working farms and ranches

  • Historic or geologic sites

  • Land protecting water resources including the Everglades

The Land Acquisition Trust Fund will collect about a billion dollars a year from the doc stamp tax.

 

Property Owners Will Pay More

 

Professor emeritus Bob Fahnestock at the University of West Florida's department of accounting and finance says taxpayers will bear the burden of increased taxes for the state to acquire land in the name of conservation. He explains that when privately owned land is converted to publicly owned land, the parcel is no longer subject to property tax. That means that the remaining privately owned land must now bear the entire tax burden.

 

"As the existing tax burden is spread over less and less privately owned property, the result will be an increase in the property tax, an increase in the doc stamp tax, an increase in some other tax like the sales tax, or the implementation of some new tax like a personal income tax to make up for the shortfall," Fahnestock said.

 

A similar situation happened when voters approved an increase in Florida's Homestead Exemption in the 1990s. It resulted in removing many homes from the tax rolls and reducing the assessed value subject to tax on other homes. Property taxes on remaining homes had to be increased to make up for the revenue shortfall.

 

A Dangerous Precedent

 

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which lobbied against Amendment 1, is concerned about other aspects of the new law. Officials say it encourages more special interest groups to try and get their funding placed in the state Constitution. The Chamber also warns that Amendment 1 forces taxpayers to arbitrarily give the state control over more land than it has the ability to manage, which is not a responsible or effective way to protect environmental resources.