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Transportation, affordable housing at odds with Senate's Amendment 1 plan

As is often the case early in session, the House and Senate are worlds apart, this time on Amendment 1.

Approved by 75 percent of the voters last year, Amendment 1 is expected to raise between $300 million and $500 million a year for projects intended to preserve environmentally sensitive land and protect and improve water quality. It’s a constitutionally guaranteed revenue source that taps documentary stamp taxes.

But considering other programs get money from doc stamps, how do lawmakers make room for Amendment 1 while pleasing everyone?

Short answer: They don’t.

On Wednesday, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources appropriations subcommittee passed a bill, HB 1291, sponsored by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, that changes the underlying distribution of documentary stamp revenues. So does a bill, SB 586, that came up in Senate’s general government appropriations committee that’s sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness  

Both bills came up on the same time Wednesday. Both passed.

But while HB 1291 left intact the share of money reserved for transportation projects and affordable housing, SB 586 did not.

While guaranteeing 33 percent of the money would go to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, per Amendment 1, the Senate version lowered amount of documentary revenue available to the Department of Transportation’s work plan and to affordable housing.

Florida Housing Coalition president Jamie Ross said the bill reduce the share of money that goes into the state and local housing trust fund by $112 million every year.

“That amount would grow as the amount of documentary stamps grows,” Ross said. “The bill unnecessarily changes how much money is going into the housing fund. It can be fixed so the exact same amount of money goes to Amendment 1 and not hurt affordable housing.”

The House’s version leaves the affordable housing money alone (though it eliminates the distribution of the revenue for a number of environmental trust funds, such as the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund, Water Management Lands Trust Fund, Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) Trust Fund, etc).

“We hope that HB 1291 will continue to successfully make its way through the process and urge the Senate to also support good legislation to implement Amendment 1, without harming affordable housing,” Ross said.

Ross was joined by Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association in objecting to how Dean’s bill would change the doc stamp distributions.

“This bill sweeps over $100 million from the transportation work plan,” Burleson said. “It’s a big deal. It will impact the next five year work plan by over $1 billion.”

But in the House?

“They have a similar bill that doesn’t affect transportation,” Burleson said. “Every year, transportation money is in play in some fashion. We actually had hopes of getting more money this year. We were hoping to be on the offense and now we’re on the defense.”