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Senate panel restores affordable housing funds shifted by Amendment 1

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A Senate committee on Wednesday voted to restore funding for affordable housing, as a way to offset the loss of revenue because of Amendment 1.

Approved overwhelmingly by voters in November, Amendment 1 provides 33 percent of documentary stamp tax revenue to water and land conservation.

SB 586 seeks to redistribute the remaining $1.3 billion in documentary stamp fees for fiscal 2015-16, after $757 million is set aside for Amendment 1.

The bill would have reduced the revenue going to an affordable housing trust fund by $110 million an revenue going to a transportation trust fund by $102 million, according to a Senate bill analysis.

Some senators last week said that the bill revealed, unknown to voters, effects of Amendment 1 on other spending in the state budget. But environmentalists and an affordable housing advocate said the Senate could reduce the amount of documentary stamp revenue going to the general fund to protect affordable housing.

On Wednesday, an amendment by Sen. Alan Hays changed the percentage of distributions to the affordable housing trust fund, restoring funding to $259 million. That’s the amount the trust fund would have received prior to Amendment 1, said Hays, an Umatilla Republican.

Supporters of the amendment include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Legal Services, the Florida Veterans Foundation, United Way of Florida, Florida IMPACT, the Council of Churches, Florida REALTORS and AARP.

“This is a great amendment,” said Trey Price, who represents Florida Realtors. “We think it reflects the will of the voters who approved Amendment 1 as well as the proponents who stated their intention was not to harm other programs in the documentary stamp tax.”

Sen. Chris Smith, the Senate Democratic leader from Oakland Park, withdrew a similar amendment he had prepared.

“I can’t believe I’m quoting him, but Ronald Reagan once said there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who takes credit,” Smith said. “In that vein I will withdraw my amendment.”

SB 586 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, its final committee stop.

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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