These days, Floridians’ finances are being tested everywhere we look — from utility bills to groceries to gas and clothes. But just when Florida residents thought they would be getting some relief from rising inflation, the Hillsborough County Commission is looking to raise taxes to “improve” transportation. The problem? This is not the time to be grabbing more money from residents’ pockets.
Inflation remains around its highest level in four decades, forcing Florida families to think hard about their economic future. Not only are they pondering how to endure and emerge from this current financial slump, but they must also consider how to hang onto an income that will prove to be sustainable over time. Nationally, polls have shown that almost two-thirds of voters — 62 percent — think their family’s income is falling behind, and 83 percent say they are experiencing hardships due to increased prices.
With so much worry, it is very untimely for Hillsborough County to now seek a one-cent sales tax to improve transportation. The tax idea was introduced in 2018 and thrown out in court last year. County commissioners considered resurrecting it in 2020, but wisely thought better of it amid the economic upheaval of the pandemic. Now it is back, but what the Hillsborough County Commission needs to recognize is that many Florida families are still reeling from economic hardships.
We filed the lawsuit that ultimately resulted in the Florida Supreme Court voiding the tax, and we were grateful when Chair Les Miller had proposed its delay in 2020. The reasoning each time was the same: putting the question on the ballot in an attempt to raise taxes during an economically strenuous time is not a prudent use of taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, the tax will not improve transportation for all those voting on it — which is a well-kept secret the Hillsborough County Commission must own up to. I think that the language of the ballot summary is deceptive, mentioning Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Riverview, Carrollwood and Town ‘N Country as areas in line to receive transportation improvements.
Is this what we’ve come to? Not only taking money from Floridians when they are already struggling, but also misrepresenting who will benefit from it?
It is the job of the Hillsborough County Commission to align with their constituents in transparency and economic support. History needs to repeat itself on this tax — it was not the right time then, and it is not the right time now.
Skylar Zander is the state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida.