Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Transit tax hits wave of skepticism

A recurring theme emerged in Thursday's debate over a proposed sales tax referendum to pay for new commuter rail, buses and roads in Hillsborough County: distrust in government.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham played that card repeatedly in a debate before roughly 100 residents of Sun City Center.

"When's the last time you entered a contract with government and they honored the terms?" Higginbotham asked in one form or another repeatedly.

Audience members took his cue, peppering his fellow commissioner and transit tax advocate, Mark Sharpe with questions along the same tack.

"I'll believe it when I see it," said resident Uta Kuhn, to assertions that the tax will be spent as planned and the rail system won't encounter costly overruns.

Sharpe attempted to assure the audience that the proposal has undergone careful analysis. Financial projections have been vetted by groups that have lead other transit initiatives around the country. Those behind the effort here have taken pains to ensure they won't have to come back to voters for more money in the future, he said.

Sharpe said spending on the transit part in particular will be overseen by each government in Hillsborough County, HART and a citizen committee of accounting and transit experts.

"I realize distrust of government is at an all time high," Sharpe said. "Do you just throw up your hands and say you're not even going to try?"

The County Commission is poised to approve ballot language for the transit initiative next month. It will ask voters in November if they support raising the sales tax by a penny to pay for a new commuter rail system, a doubling of the county's bus fleet and various road projects.

Higginbotham argued Thursday that advocates have downplayed the significance of the tax increase, emphasizing the trivial sounding penny increase but not its cumulative effect. He repeatedly noted that the proposed increase is a 14 percent hike to the sales tax (from a current 7 cents), which would be the highest rate in the state and take up to $200 million annually out of the local economy.

Based on questions from a dozen or so speakers, Higginbotham addressed a sympathetic crowd. But there was opposition.

Resident Bill Hodges said many people actually want to see improvements to the county's transportation network.

"We hear, 'No, no, no — don't trust the government,' " he said. "Well, tell me what the plan is."

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.

Transit tax hits wave of skepticism 04/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 9:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 17:  Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempts a pass during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 700069805
  2. Despite pain, woman in court faces ex-boyfriend who lit her on fire

    Criminal

    PORT RICHEY

    Sheron Pasco sat in the wheelchair as her mother pushed it toward the man in the orange jail suit.

    Sheron Pasco, 39, right, along with her mother Tranda Webb, 62, pose for a photograph Wednesday, at their home in Port Richey. Pasco's former boyfriend John Riggins doused Pasco with gasoline and set her on fire after an argument last year.. CHRIS URSO   |   Times

  3. Florida starter under center still under wraps

    College

    GAINESVILLE — With two weeks before Florida opens its season against Michigan, the Gators' three-way quarterback battle remains wide open.

    Luke Del Rio, right, is in the mix to start against Michigan in the season opener … as is Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks.
  4. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  5. Rick Kriseman picks Floribbean restaurant for Manhattan Casino

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG— Mayor Rick Kriseman has chosen a controversial restaurant concept to occupy the Manhattan Casino, saying he made a decision 11 days before the mayoral primary because he didn't want politics to get in the way of progress in struggling Midtown.

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson speaks during a Friday press conference announcing that the Callaloo Group will open a Floribbean restraurant in the historic Manhattan Casino in St. Petersburg's Midtown neighborhood. Some residents were upset with Mayor Rick Kriseman's choice, saying it will speed up gentrification of the area. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]