TAMPA — Voters can continue to cast ballots on Hillsborough County’s transportation tax referendum, an appellate court ruled Friday.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal said Hillsborough County was entitled to an automatic stay, temporarily setting aside a previous ruling from Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe.
The appellate ruling Friday essentially affirmed the appeal court’s decision a week ago allowing the referendum voting, on a proposed 1% sales tax for transportation projects, to continue until the full appeal is heard.
“It’s just been a roller coaster, but obviously we’re making a final push to voters. This is huge deal and we’re going to be out there to the very last minute,” said Christina Barker, co-founder of the All for Transportation group advocating for the transportation tax.
Moe ruled Oct. 10, in a case brought by Northdale resident Karen Jaroch, that the ballot question was misleading. Her order voided the Nov. 8 referendum.
Moe again ruled in Jaroch’s favor Oct. 27 when she said Hillsborough County was not entitled to an automatic stay — which would have frozen her earlier order — until the 2nd District Court could hear the county’s appeal.
The following day the appeals court granted an emergency motion, giving the county its stay. It affirmed that decision Friday.
“We disapprove the orders vacating the automatic stay, and the automatic stay under Florida (appellate court rules) is reinstated,” the court said Friday
Jaroch can submit a request to reinstate the stay after the election, the court said.
“The ballot language on the transit sales tax is misleading and tainted with political salesmanship, therefore the results will be unfairly skewed in the tax’s favor,” Jaroch told the Tampa Bay Times in an email Friday.
The tax is projected to generate $342 million in its first full year. It would fund projects including mass transit and road, intersection and sidewalk construction — some of which are part of a $13 billion backlog of needed work, advocates for the tax have argued. Opponents have said the county should rework its current budget to cover those costs, rather than add the tax.
More than 269,000 votes had been cast in the general election as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections website.