TAMPA – One day after making the General Election ballot, leaders of All for Transportation on Thursday formally launched a campaign to convince Hillsborough County voters to back a sales tax transportation initiative.
Speaking Thursday morning at a press conference held yards from passing traffic on busy Hillsborough Avenue in East Tampa, Tampa Heights attorney Tyler Hudson said the almost 77,000 signatures the group collected in about six weeks demonstrates there is strong support for fixing the county's transportation problems.
He expects the same support to show through at the polls on Nov. 6 when voters will be asked to approve a one-penny county sales tax hike, from seven cents on the dollar to eight cents, for a 30-year period beginning in 2019.
"It provides the people of Hillsborough County an historic opportunity to begin the long overdue work of funding a transportation system that save people's time, people's money, people's lives" Hudson said. "Whether you live in Carrollwood, Sun City Center or right here in East Tampa, there is something in the All for Transportation plan for you."
All for Transportation is using the charter amendment by petition to get the initiative on the ballot. It requires petitions are signed by the equivalent of more than 8 percent of the voters in the most recent general election.
The group paid at least $525,000 to Revolution Field Strategies, a professional petition gathering firm to meet that target. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections verified 50,709 signatures as valid.
The money to pay Revolution came mainly from some big-name donors including Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, prominent philanthropist Frank Morsani and the Tampa Bay Partnership, a group that advocates for businesses.
If approved by voters, the tax would raise an estimated $280 million per year.
Forty-five percent would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority to improve bus service and pay for other mass transit. The remainder would go to Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for road and bridge improvements, pothole repair, sidewalks, bike lanes and projects to ease congestion.
The money would be spent on projects identified in a long-range transportation plan developed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a transportation policy-making board made up of elected leaders from Hillsborough County, the School Board, Port Tampa Bay, Tampa International Airport and all three municipalities.
Similar referendums to use sales tax for transportation projects were overwhelmingly rejected by voters in Hillsborough in 2010 and in Pinellas in 2014. They drew vocal opposition from anti-tax groups including No Tax for Tracks and the Tea Party.
In 2016, county commissioners helped develop the Go Hillsborough transportation plan but then pulled the plug on it, voting 4-3 not to place it on the General Election ballot.
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.