Thursday, November 15, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hillsborough transportation tax: What you need to know

WHAT DOES THE BALLOT INITIATIVE DO?

  • Here’s the question on the ballot for County Referendum No. 2: “Should transportation improvements be funded throughout Hillsborough County, including Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Town ‘n’ Country, and Sun City, including projects that: Improve roads and bridges, Expand public transit options, Fix potholes, Enhance bus services, Relieve rush hour bottlenecks, Improve intersections, and Make walking and biking safer, By amending the County Charter to enact a one-cent sales surtax levied for 30 years and deposited in an audited trust fund with independent oversight? A new 1% sales surtax is in addition to the current 7% sales tax and is estimated to raise $276 million annually and $552 million the first two calendar years. Revenues will be shared by Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART); Metropolitan Planning Organization; and, using a population-based formula, by Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, City of Tampa, Plant City, and City of Temple Terrace. Expenditures will be governed by the Charter Amendment.”
  • Most of the money — 54 percent — would be earmarked for roads, sidewalks and trails. About 45 percent would go to bus and transit. Here are highlights of how the tax proceeds would be used: resurface Tampa’s roads every 25 years instead of every 75 years; build a mass-transit system linking the university area, downtown Tampa and the Westshore-Tampa International Airport area; round out a planned network of 400 miles of bike and pedestrian trails; add 10 new routes, 150 new buses and increase the frequency of at least four bus routes to every 15 minutes; plug roughly 500 miles of sidewalk gaps on roads in unincorporated Hillsborough; and make intersection improvements throughout the county, including the addition of intelligent traffic signals that adjust to real-time traffic flow. For a household with an income that’s average for the county, around $55,000, the proposal would mean an extra $120 per year in taxes, according to a sales tax calculator developed by the Internal Revenue Service.

WHAT'S AT STAKE?

Transportation officials say no one has come up with a way to pay for hundreds of pressing transportation needs amounting to some $9 billion. To address this, a citizens group backed by business leaders including Jeff Vinik gathered the signatures necessary to put a one-cent-per-dollar sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot. Other backers include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and major local employers. No opposition to the measure surfaced until three weeks before the election, when a tea party-affiliated group that successfully fought transportation ballot measures before in the Tampa Bay area organized a political action committee. Among its arguments, the group says the increase would help make Hillsborough's the state's highest sales tax and is unnecessary because county commissioners re-prioritized $800 million of existing revenue for transportation over 10 years that, combined with gas taxes, will fund needed maintenance and safety issues. The local NAACP also opposes the hike, saying it's a burden on poor people. All for Transportation, the group advocating the tax increase, said the $800 million doesn't come close to answering current transportation needs or  those that will be created by a Hillsborough population increase projected at 700,000 in the next 30 years. If the measure passes, it would amend the county charter to increase the sales tax by 1 percent and would create a 13-member citizen oversight committee to make sure local governments spend the funds as intended.

WHAT YOU NEED TO READ

Click here for the 2018 Florida voter guide

Follow @codonnell_Times for the latest on this race

Comments
St. Petersburg motorcycle crash kills 44-year-old man, shuts down traffic

St. Petersburg motorcycle crash kills 44-year-old man, shuts down traffic

The motorcycle collided with an SUV. The other driver is cooperating with investigators.
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tampa’s Grand Central Station and High Line? Harry Cohen is thinking big on transportation

Tampa’s Grand Central Station and High Line? Harry Cohen is thinking big on transportation

Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen, an eight-year veteran of City Council, is known for his attention to detail on even the smallest zoning matter.But in his run to replace term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Cohen is leaving the small-ball approach ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rules of the Sidewalk? Tampa grapples with the rented scooter craze

Rules of the Sidewalk? Tampa grapples with the rented scooter craze

Tampa city officials are sifting through applications for a pilot scooter program. Residents could be scooting through the streets by February.
Updated: 6 hours ago
Buckhorn names Arthenia Joyner to transit committee

Buckhorn names Arthenia Joyner to transit committee

The former Democratic state senator is the first person named to the 13-member transit surtax oversight committee.
Updated: 9 hours ago
Clearwater strong mayor fight is over but rift on City Council remains an open wound

Clearwater strong mayor fight is over but rift on City Council remains an open wound

Hoyt Hamilton asks for apology from Doreen Caudell for her words in Letter to the Editor. She apologizes but claims she was misquoted in her own letter.
Published: 11/14/18
William March: Could a late arrival in Tampa mayor’s race upset the apple cart?

William March: Could a late arrival in Tampa mayor’s race upset the apple cart?

Speculation centers on businessman Mike Griffin or former state Rep. Ed Narain possibly entering the race for Tampa mayor.
Published: 11/13/18
Is he doing a post-election two-step? Ed Turanchik  on the transportation tax, then and now

Is he doing a post-election two-step? Ed Turanchik on the transportation tax, then and now

Before the vote, Ed Turanchik was highly critical of the one-penny sales tax increase to fund transportation improvements that passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday.The former Hillsborough County Commissioner and current Tampa mayoral candidate was the on...
Published: 11/08/18
Updated: 11/09/18
Hillsborough now firmly blue

Hillsborough now firmly blue

A growing urban and suburban population has shifted Hillsborough's politics, pundits say.
Published: 11/07/18
The people’s choice?  Tampa’s Riverwalk

The people’s choice? Tampa’s Riverwalk

It's been the riparian apple of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's eye, so perhaps it's fitting , as the term-limited mayor counts down his final months in office, that Tampa's Riverwalk gets some national love.The American Planning Association awarded the linear ...
Published: 11/07/18
Los Angeles mayor hails Hillsborough transit vote on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’

Los Angeles mayor hails Hillsborough transit vote on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’

Eric Garcetti tells the ABC-TV host that the citizen-driven, voter-approved, penny on dollar sales tax for transportation is one of the midterm election's most exciting results.
Published: 11/07/18