Antitax group starts campaign against Mark Sharpe
With Hillsborough voters set to consider a 1 cent sales tax increase in November, Orlando-based Ax the Tax, launched an antitax ad campaign on cable networks over the weekend. The group has fought tax increases and rail proposals throughout the state since its creation in 1986. The tax proposed for Hillsborough would pay for road improvements, expanded bus service and rail.
But Ax the Tax's ad never mentions the referendum. Instead, it's an attack on Republican County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a vocal proponent of the tax. "We're hopeful that Hillsborough County taxpayers will remove him from office based on his support of rail," said Doug Guetzloe, chairman of Ax the Tax, at a news conference at County Center on Monday.
Sharpe is facing Josh Burgin in the Republican primary. Burgin, who has built his whole campaign around Sharpe's support of the tax, is receiving backing from entrepreneur Sam Rashid, who also made a $500 contribution to Ax the Tax. "We hope Sam Rashid will send us more," Guetzloe said.
The group has budgeted $75,000 for its campaign and spent $10,000 on the anti-Sharpe ads.
At the news conference, Guetzloe did talk about taxes and rail in addition to Sharpe.
"Government revenue is not the problem. Government spending is the problem," he said. "If they want to build rail, which we think is not a transportation alternative, they certainly have plenty of mechanisms to do that without asking hard-pressed taxpayers for additional money."
As a case in point, Guetzloe pointed to 2007 state transportation legislation that budgeted $48 million to an opulent courthouse in Tallahassee. "Marble bathrooms? You can't tell taxpayers that there isn't money available," he said.
Hillsborough's planned rail line, he said, will be a "complete disaster" with few riders, congestion caused by tracks that cross major intersections, and increased noise and air pollution.
Guetzloe said the group will produce materials specifically opposing the referendum, but right now, the focus is on Sharpe and the Aug. 24 primary.
“Mr. Sharpe’s election provides a barometer for the November election," Guetzloe said. “If he is defeated in the primary, we think that will give us continued impetus to win in November.”
Janet Zink, Times staff writer