Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas lawmakers approve tax swap bill, stop firearm bill

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County legislators voted 6-2 Thursday for a bill that would allow voters to swap property taxes for higher sales taxes for buses and rail.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority officials support the bill because they think the swap is necessary to eventually persuade voters to pass a sales tax for transit. If the Legislature approves, the County Commission would have to vote to put the tax increase on the ballot.

But even opening the door to a higher sales tax for rail upset some conservatives during the county delegation's meeting in downtown St. Petersburg.

"What is the business plan for PSTA? I don't know because nobody came and met with me. … I think there is a significant opportunity for this to be a tax increase on the citizens of Pinellas County," said state Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who voted no with Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole.

"A sales tax is an incredibly regressive tax," Brandes added.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, sponsored the bill with Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater. They called criticism overblown and false.

Hooper suggested the county wait for the existing Penny for Pinellas to expire and switch it to transit projects without raising the tax rate, though no PSTA plan has included that option. The bill will stop PSTA from "double dipping" in property and sales taxes, he said.

"This is not supporting or endorsing any tax increase whatsoever. There is no tax increase in this bill at all," he added.

PSTA will receive $32 million in property taxes this year. Raising the sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent could generate roughly $100 million annually. Ahern compared the sales tax to pouring money into a "failing" endeavor — mirroring tea party complaints.

Also Thursday, state Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, withdrew a bill that would have allowed local governments in Pinellas to opt out of firearm laws if voters approve.

Local governments had to repeal restrictions this year after the Legislature imposed fines and other penalties if local officials did not eliminate their firearm limits. The state law goes back decades but hadn't often been enforced.

Pinellas Republican lawmakers ripped Kriseman's bill, and supporters said it threatened their rights.

"Shame on us for letting it go 20 years without enforcing this earlier," Hooper said.

David DeCamp can be reached at

Pinellas lawmakers approve tax swap bill, stop firearm bill 10/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 12:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bullpen melts down as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jacob Faria allowed his first two big-league home runs and was touched for a career-high three runs Saturday by the Orioles. Other than that, the rookie making his fourth major-league start did okay against the Baltimore bats.

    The bullpen, not so much.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Baltimore Orioles scored four runs during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) SPD118
  2. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  3. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  4. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  5. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]