TAMPA – A citizen's group trying to put a transportation initiative before voters says it has amassed almost 59,000 signatures as it begins a final push to meet a Friday deadline to qualify.
That exceeds the threshold of roughly 49,000 that All for Transportation must meet to put its one-penny sales tax initiative on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot. Still, the group plans to use every remaining day to gather more since about 30 percent of signatures already processed by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office have been ruled invalid.
That final push will be made easier by two more big donations to the campaign.
The group received $150,000 each from the Tampa Bay Partnership business group and Coastal Construction Services, a South Florida development firm owned by the family of former Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Patrick Murphy, each donated $150,000 to the group.
Along with similar donations from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Tampa philanthropist Frank Morsani, All for Transportation has now raised more than $600,000 in about five weeks.
It has already spent much of that, doling out $250,000 to petition-gathering firm Revolution Field Strategies.
"We are excited about the support we are seeing in all corners of the county from the grass roots supporters and business community," said Tyler Hudson of Tampa Heights, one of the leaders of the group. "It confirms our belief that the time to act on transportation is now."
The Tampa Bay Partnership is a privately funded organization that advocates for policies that benefit local businesses. Its Council of Governors voted unanimously to make the contribution, said spokeswoman Jennifer Mikosky.
"To connect regionally, we need to have a well-funded local transportation system," attorney Rhea Law, chairwoman of the Tampa Bay Partnership. "Improving connectivity throughout Tampa Bay is critical and we're proud to support the citizens working to bring this decision to Hillsborough County voters in November."
Coastal Construction Services could not be reached for comment. The firm is the contractor for the entire first phase of the Water Street Tampa project — about $1.5 billion worth of development encompassing 3.5 million square feet.
Water Street is being developed by Strategic Property Partners, launched by Vinik and Cascade Investment, the capital fund owned by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates.
All for Transportation is employing a rarely used citizen's charter amendment petition process to put the plan in front of voters. The move enabled the group to bypass Hillsborough commissioners, who in 2016 voted 4-3 against sending voters a transportation sales tax plan called Go Hillsborough.
The petition process requires the group to collect roughly 49,000 signatures by Friday. The measure would ask voters to approve a one penny countywide sales tax hike, from seven cents on the dollar to eight cents, for a 30-year period beginning in 2019.
The group had submitted just shy of 40,000 signatures to the Supervisor of Elections as of Friday. Of the roughly 20,700 processed, some 6,300 were ruled invalid.
If approved by voters, the tax would raise about $280 million per year.
Forty-five percent of the money raised would go to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to improve bus service and pay for other mass transit. The remainder would go to Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for road and bridge improvements, pothole repair, sidewalks, bike lanes and projects to ease congestion.
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times