Hillsborough County commissioners respected for democratic process this week by embracing a transportation plan that county voters approved in November. Though the plan is being challenged in the courts, the funding agreement at least sets the stage for honoring the voters’ will.
Hillsborough voters approved a one-cent local sales tax for countywide transportation improvements in November, and the 57-43 margin was a clear statement about the voters’ desire for a broad range of projects, from road and bridge work and safety improvements to new mass transit connections. But Republican Commissioner Stacy White quickly filed suit to invalidate the tax, hoping the courts would overturn the outcome of an election. A Hillsborough Circuit judge upheld the tax in June but struck specific funding categories in the referendum. The case is now before the Florida Supreme Court.
The commission voted 6-1 Wednesday (with only White voting no) to restore the original spending blueprint. That’s in line with the trial judge’s ruling, which said the authority over spending rested with commissioners, not voters. The move also recognized that hundreds of thousands of residents wanted a balanced approach to funding road, sidewalk and mass transit projects. Republican Commissioner Ken Hagan offered the appropriate perspective. The funding plan may be imperfect, he said, but “I cannot ignore the will of the voters who voted to tax themselves to address our transportation woes.”
This was a sound policy decision that strengthens public faith in county government.
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