A 55 percent win in any election is a solid victory. Constitutional amendments in Florida must win 60 percent of the vote to be approved. And tax referendums are often hard to pass by any margin. That makes it all the more remarkable that the extension of the Penny for Pinellas won nearly 83 percent of the vote this week.
Think about that. More than 8 in 10 of the voters who cast ballots in Tuesday’s election approved extending the one-cent sales tax for another decade. It had support in every corner of Pinellas, from heavily Republican districts in the north to heavily Democratic districts in the south. Opinion polls have shown fewer than 8 in 10 adults say they believed in Santa Claus when they were kids.
The overwhelming support to extend the sales tax until 2030 can be traced to several factors. It isn’t a new tax. The money is fairly distributed between the counties and the cities. Most important, voters can see the difference the Penny for Pinellas has made in their communities and throughout the county. They use the parks and commute on the bridges and roads. Their kids use the rec centers, ball fields and libraries. And the Penny for Pinellas signs at these projects are good reminders in campaign season.
Extending the local sales tax was particularly important this time, because there will be a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot to add another $25,000 homestead exemption that would cost local governments millions in revenue. The Penny for Pinellas is a textbook example of voters willing to continue to tax themselves to improve their communities when they help set the priorities and can see real results.