The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the will of Hillsborough County voters and invalidate All for Transportation, a one-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, is a terrible disappointment. But it is not the final word. The desperate need for money to pay for road projects, safety measures and transit options remains, and public officials and the voters will have to mount another effort to re-approve All for Transportation in 2022.
Hillsborough County voters wisely invested in the future when they courageously voted in 2018 to pass a plan to pay for badly needed transportation improvements.
The All for Transportation plan provides a dedicated funding source for road improvements, safety projects and new transit options. Most importantly, it illuminates a way forward for the community to invest in stronger neighborhoods, smart growth policies and public safety.
The cost of doing nothing, of allowing our transportation crisis to grow in magnitude and exigency, has never been as great as it is today. We are paying for this paralysis with our time, our money and, in the most tragic circumstances, our lives.
Over the last two years, more than $400 million in All for Transportation tax dollars have been collected. Funding for more than 80 miles of new and repaired sidewalks, 100 miles of road resurfacing, more than 70 safety and intersection improvement projects, and 97,000 hours of expanded bus service has sat idle awaiting the resolution of a lawsuit filed by referendum opponents in an attempt to obtain a political do-over. Now, the Florida Supreme Court has granted them one.
Hillsborough County voters in 2018 spoke with a clear and powerful voice — the time is now to invest in our community’s critical transportation infrastructure. Since then, the voters have continued to cement that commitment by electing several outspoken advocates of All for Transportation. Now, we must again recommit to the vision of a safer, better connected Hillsborough County.
We must shape a new path forward for 2022.
That path begins with a commitment by the Hillsborough County Commission to bring the All for Transportation plan back to voters.
The basic pillars of the plan must stay the same. It must include a one-cent dedicated funding source with 45 percent to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), and 55 percent split among Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, Plant City, and Temple Terrace. It must include guaranteed funding for safety, maintenance, transit, and congestion relief. These components are the foundation of the balanced and progressive approach that voters supported in 2018.
As the new referendum plans are being set, our local government partners must begin spending the investment already made by citizens. Plans for the first two years of funding have been approved and work must begin immediately in every corner of our community to fix and build sidewalks, add crosswalks, restore bus service, computerize traffic signals, and reduce congestion on our roadways.
Elected leadership must match the courageous vision of their constituents with relentless and steadfast action in the face of opposition.
This is not the first time that citizens’ demands for a better community have been blocked in Tallahassee. Yet this setback is merely that — a temporary setback. Now more than ever, Hillsborough County is well-positioned to stop paying the cost of doing nothing and start building toward a better future. We should immediately move forward.
Tyler Hudson and Christina Barker are co-founders of All for Transportation, the citizen-led effort that successfully placed and passed the 2018 Hillsborough County transportation referendum.