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Santa Rosa mulling the unthinkable in Hillsborough

It's interesting to watch Hillsborough County commissioners go back and forth on a sales tax referendum next year. Should it be a 1-cent increase or a half-cent?

Neither one would come close to addressing the county's unmet transportation needs, from roads, buses, rail, etc. So why won't commissioners consider another source, such as the gas tax?

Great question. And unfortunately, Hillsborough officials don't have a good answer. They just don't want to touch it. A gas tax hike is too politically unpopular than yet another sales tax hike.

But are Hillsborough commissioners paying attention to what's happening elsewhere? Santa Rosa commissioners last week approved scheduling public hearings in September to increase the gas tax by as much as six cents.

Last year, Pasco County increased its local gas tax by five cents so that it's five cents higher than Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Why would now be a good time for a gas tax hike?

For one, gas is super cheap right now. Nationally, it's about 75 cents less a gallon than this time last year. Wouldn't hiking a tax on a commodity make more sense when its price is lower than when it increases? How is it that a gas tax increase is unpalatable when prices are high, yet it doesn't come up when the price drops?

Another reason is that while Florida is not close to considering a gas tax increase, either, many other states are.

Last month, Washington approved an 11.9-cent gas tax increase. According to Planetzen, eight other states this year have passed gas tax increases: Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Nebraska and Alaska. All but one of those states, Kentucky, has a Republican governor.

Yet doing the same thing in Hillsborough remains a fantasy.

The only question is: Why?