Transit tax issue divides Pinellas lawmakers
From our sister blog, The Buzz, Steve Bousquet reports:
A minor local tax bill exposed a split in the Pinellas County legislative delegation Monday as the House overwhelmingly approved legislation dealing with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. The vote was 92-21 for the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater.
The bill (HB 865) says if the Pinellas County Commission approves a penny sales tax increase for transportation improvements, the tax can only be imposed if Pinellas voters approve it in a referendum. On top of that, if the sales tax passes, the transit authority must repeal an existing property tax that raises $33 million a year. A House analysis says the sales tax increase would generate $120 million a year.
Republican Reps. Larry Ahern, Jeff Brandes and Richard Corcoran voted against the bill, and all other Pinellas House members voted yes, including Rep. Jim Frishe, a staunch fiscal conservative, House majority whip and state Senate candidate. "The taxpayer isn't going to get hit a second time," Frishe said. "This protects the local taxpayer."
Far from being a "tax swap," Corcoran argued, the shift would increase taxes on Pinellas taxpayers by $87 million. The floor speeches against the bill prompted Hooper to apologize that a local bill took up so much floor time. "It is a shame that three members of my delegation chose to argue to double the taxes on our citizens," Hooper said in a parting shot at Ahern, Brandes and Corcoran.