TAMPA — Hillsborough voters will have another ballot question to consider in November.
County commissioners on Wednesday voted tentatively and unanimously in support of a ballot question that would ask voters whether they would support waiving property taxes for new or expanding businesses as an economic development incentive.
"With double-digit unemployment, record foreclosures, this could not be a better time to stimulate growth," said commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who floated the idea, which is allowed under state law and which he said has been adopted in 25 other counties.
The proposal has come under attack from some environmentalists and one of Hagan's opponents in the November election as a last-minute giveaway light on details. Hagan said that time is running out to get an issue on the ballot and that there will be a public discussion on how it is structured if it passes.
In general, new or expanding businesses could apply to have the county portion of their property tax bill waived for up to 10 years if they create jobs. The incentive would vary based on the number of jobs created, the salaries they provide and whether the business meets other desired standards, such as operating near the urban center.
Jim Hosler, a demographer and consultant who is challenging Hagan, blasted the idea as an outmoded way of promoting economic development.
"You're dealing with dinosaur economic development policies," Hosler said.
Terry Flott, head of the growth-management group United Citizens Action Network, said the public has not been given adequate opportunity to weigh in on the proposal, which is vague. Under state law, commissioners are not required to hold a public hearing before placing this type of question on the ballot, the county attorney's office said.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner echoed Flott's concerns before voting to support the resolution. The proposal will come back for a followup vote Aug. 18 on actual ballot language.