1. Florida Politics

Three weeks before election, tax foes organize to fight transportation measure

No Tax for Tracks Chairwoman Karen Jaroch is a former Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority board member and co-founder of the Hillsborough chapter of the Tea Party.
No Tax for Tracks Chairwoman Karen Jaroch is a former Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority board member and co-founder of the Hillsborough chapter of the Tea Party.
Published Oct. 19, 2018

TAMPA — No Tax for Tracks is putting the band back together.

The group that campaigned against the failed 2010 transit referendum in Hillsborough has regrouped to fight a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike for road, bus and transit projects.

As in 2010, the group's leaders include local tea party activist Sharon Calvert and Karen Jaroch, a former board member of the county's bus agency and co-founder of the tea party's Hillsborough County chapter.

They recently formed a new political committee to fight a proposed 30-year transportation tax that would raise about $276 million per year if approved by voters in the Nov. 6 election. The citizens group All for Transportation collected more than 77,000 signature to get the plan on the ballot.

"This tax increase is unnecessary as Hillsborough County commissioners re-prioritized $800 million of existing revenue for transportation funding over 10 years that along with our existing gas taxes funds needed maintenance and safety issues," Jaroch said in an email.

County planners have estimated that Hillsborough has $4 billion in unfunded road, sidewalk and trail projects.

No Tax is late joining the fray.

There are less than three weeks until the election and more than 63,000 mail ballots already cast as of Thursday afternoon.

The group has raised just $7,600 compared to the $2.3 million raised by All for Transportation, whose backers include Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, local hospital groups and the Tampa Bay Partnership business group.

RELATED: Bucs, Rays, Lightning back sales tax hike for transportation, each-donate $100,000

That doesn't deter Jaroch.

"As in 2010, it doesn't take that much money to tell the truth," she said. "We formed to counter the deception perpetrated by wealthy developers bankrolling the All for Transportation campaign. The public is unaware that this is a tax hike over 30 years costing $16 billion."

The group's estimate assumes tax revenues grow 3.5 percent every year from inflation and rising population.

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization in its long range transportation plan estimates the tax would raise about $8 billion in its first two decades. Developed in 2014, the plan does not provide estimates for the final 10 years of the tax.

As evidenced by its name, No Tax's campaign is likely to highlight spending on rail as wasteful.

Campaign signs with "Vote no rail tax" are already posted on the affiliated Fix Our Roads First Facebook page.

Most of the tax however, would be spent on roads. It earmarks 54 percent for congestion relief, safety improvements, sidewalks and trails.

About 45 percent would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority for buses and transit between the university area, downtown Tampa and Westshore. That could be rail, light-rail, bus rapid transit or some other system.

RELATED: Here's how money from a sales tax hike would improve transportation in Hillsborough

All for Transportation leaders declined to comment on the appearance of a new opposition group but said its petition drive proves it has widespread support.

"All for Transportation is a grassroots campaign that started with 77,000 Hillsborough County residents coming together to demand we finally address one of our greatest shortcomings — growing traffic congestion, unsafe roads and a lack of transit options," said chairman Tyler Hudson. "The broad based support All for Transportation has received is proof this is a community issue that impacts everyone's quality of life."

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.


  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington. President Donald Trump's legal team will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    The former Florida attorney general reportedly will join former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
  4. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  5. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  6. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  8. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  9. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  10. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.