A city-only transportation referendum? House candidates in South Tampa are all over the map
For most of the years he’s been mayor, Bob Buckhorn’s wish list for the Florida Legislature consistently has included one thing: The chance for the city of Tampa to hold its own transportation sales tax referendum.
And he hasn’t been alone. In 2013, the mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Miami, Hialeah, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale came together to lobby for the proposal. They didn’t get anywhere in a Republican-led Legislature with a dim view of tax initiatives.
That might not change after this year’s election. Both Republicans in the Aug. 30 primary for state House District 60, which covers South Tampa, say transportation is a priority but neither directly embraced the city-only referendum idea after it came up Friday morning at the political breakfast group Cafe Con Tampa.
Development attorney Ron Weaver asked one candidate, construction company owner Rebecca Smith, whether she would support allowing Tampa or St. Petersburg or maybe both to hold their own referendums.
In her answer to Weaver and then after the breakfast, Smith said a lot would depend on hearing from voters directly that a referendum was something they wanted.
“The voters need to be asked whether or not they should have their own ability to create that tax,” she said. “The city needs to indicate desire … but the welling needs to come from the community up. … The community knows what’s best for them. Then the government is there to support the needs and the desires of the community.”
Then, Smith said, as a “deliberative thinker,” she would “want to know the argument why I shouldn’t support what a community wants. And if there is an equal argument to why that shouldn’t be allowed, I would want to factor that into my final decision.”
Smith’s opponent in the GOP primary, civil engineer Jackie Toledo, had a shorter answer.
“I’m against any sales tax referendums,” said Toledo, who was at the breakfast but was not a speaker.
The winner of the Aug. 30 Republican primary will face Democrat David Singer in the Nov. 8 general election. And he has a different position.
“Yes. I would support the city having the option for a sales tax referendum,” he said. He noted that the 2010 transportation tax referendum won support inside the city while failing in unincorporated Hillsborough County. A referendum doesn’t represent City Hall raising taxes, he said, but instead is about city voters deciding whether to do so and having a chance to “determine their own destiny” on transit.
“I think it’s important, especially on the issue of transportation that we’ve been trying in this community for years to resolve, to make progress where we can,” he said.