Private property: An extinct species in Florida?

Dan Peterson, Executive Director of  Coalition For Property Rights (CPR) in an email states, “It seems all but official…last week the announcement was made that a sufficient number of signatures has been obtained to place an amendment proposal to Florida’s Constitution on the November 2014 ballot.”

What is it?

The ballot is entitled “Water and Land Conservation” (see the full text below). The Ballot “dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”

The amendment will require 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents (the state documentary stamps on real estate transactions) for 20 years be placed in the “Land Acquisition Trust Fund.” That adds up to a potential of $10 Billion available to be spent. The monies will be designated to acquire land, manage lands, improve lands, and service debt on bond issues among other things.

Who is behind this initiative?

The campaign is called, ‘Florida’s Water and Land Legacy.” It is being promoted by The Florida Conservation Coalition headed by Bob Graham, Lee Constantine, and Nathaniel Reed. It has the endorsement of many extreme environmentalist groups. And, it has been advised and funded by “The Conservation Campaign,” a Washington, DC organization that has generated more than $35 Billion in new public money (tax money) for land conservation.

“The American dream was founded upon the principle of private citizens owning property as a protection against the potential tyranny of the state. This principle, emphasizing owners with the freedom to prosper (through the achievement of an economic expectation) by using their land, is the reason our country has become the most exceptional in history. Large amounts of government owned lands threaten that dream for many reasons,” warns Peterson.

Government already owns and controls more than 30% of Florida. More than 27% of Florida is already held in conservation. With additional government ownership of land, comes added government bureaucracy. For years, government has struggled to produce an accurate inventory of the lands it owns and controls. And, the funding to manage or maintain these lands has been less than adequate.

Peterson states, “Government is not the desired manager of money nor is it the best steward of property. Private citizens are much better at accounting for and managing money and property. In fact, Randall Holcombe, in a 2009 article written for the James Madison Institute, documented how private land management firms could manage acreage at a much lower cost than the state. The plans described in his study were never attempted because government bureaucracy got it the way.”

What happens when government owns and controls land?

  1. Florida tax dollars are spent to purchase the land. Since 2001, nearly $3 Billion of your tax dollars have been spent to buy land for conservation.
  2. Additional tax dollars must now be spent to maintain those lands including the hiring of more state employees (increasing the size of government) and the purchase of more equipment and facilities.
  3. When property goes unmaintained, it can become a safety hazard to other people and their property (as illustrated by Florida’s brush fires).
  4. Once government controls land, it often becomes “off-limits” to Floridians and visitors even though taxpayers theoretically own them. No trespassing signs often dominate the fences forming the boundaries of “state owned” lands.
  5. When government owns and controls property, the natural resources of those properties become untouchable.
  6. Land placed in conservation usually sits fallow and makes little to no contribution to Florida’s economy.
  7. Parcels owned and controlled by the state are taken off the tax rolls.This places an additional burden on local government and citizens to fund their own local needs of things like education, local fire & safety, local infrastructure improvements, etc.

CPR is urging Floridians to oppose this amendment for the following reasons:

  1. Eroding the amount of privately owned property erodes the American dream.Our Founding Fathers understood an important principle: the right to property that ensures the other rights we enjoy and is a defense against tyranny.
  2. Private property ownership leads to maintenance and wiser use.Before entrusting government with more money to buy land, it should be held accountable and demonstrate its ability as a wise steward to maintain what is currently owned.
  3. This amendment creates and funds additional government bureaucracy that will be neither accountable nor efficient.
  4. Florida currently has action plans and agencies (such as the Department of Environmental Protection) which are positioned to balance the purchase and management of land while coordinating those plans with protecting Florida’s water quantity and quality.
  5. Funding allocated to fulfilling those plans (already approved and in action) would be a much better use than putting billions into the hands of narrow, special interest groups, many of which have an extreme environmentalist philosophy.

CPR asks Floridians to consider two opposing philosophies of those who wish to direct Florida’s future.

The special interest, extreme environmentalist/sustainable development philosophy is expressed in this preamble quote from the United Nations (UN) Habitat 1 Conference, held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976:

“Land…cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes…Public control of land use is therefore indispensable to its protection…”

Alternatively, the principle and value which made America the land of the free and the home of the brave is expressed in this quote by Virginia Colonist and Founding Father Arthur Lee in 1775:

“The right of property is the guardian of every other right, and to deprive people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty.”

Peterson concludes with, “Perhaps, rather than increasing land purchase, it would enhance liberty and be more beneficial to the potential property owners in Florida to consider lowering the high cost of current doc stamp tax taxes by a third.”



Article X, Section 28, Florida Constitution, is created to read:

SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund.–

a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.

b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:

1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.

2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).

c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.