Pinellas Republican Party officially opposes Greenlight Pinellas referendum
The Pinellas County Republican Party has made official its opposition to the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum.
The party's Executive Committee on Monday unanimously approved a motion to oppose the plan that would increase the county's sales tax from 7 cents to 8 cents on the dollar to pay for expanded bus service and a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
“Republicans stand for small, efficient, and effective government with reduced taxation and regulation," committee Chairman Michael J. Guju said in a statement. "We believe that this proposed sales tax increase would do more harm than good, especially to the county’s poorest residents, disabled veterans and our seniors on fixed incomes. Though many Pinellas Republicans support public transportation, and want to see it expanded and made more efficient, a sales tax increase which would unduly hurt those who most use public transportation makes little sense.”
The party notes in a new release that the tax increase would make the county's sales tax the highest in Florida "with minimal exclusions."
Supporters argue that a sales tax is a fairer way to pay for the needed improvements, and that tourists will chip in a significant portion of the revenue. The sales tax would only go up on items already subject to the sales tax. Among the excluded items are medicine, groceries, certain agricultural and manufacturing startup equipment. It also would be limited to the first $5,000 of major purchases.
Proponents of the plan also note that the sales tax would replace the property tax that currently funds the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
The entire project, including the bus and rail components, is expected to cost $2.2 billion to build and $130 million annually to operate.
The Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee has yet to take an official stance on the referendum.