Sierra Club to Commissioners: Go Hillsborough needs more transit funding

Published Feb. 22, 2016

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Sierra Club reiterated to Hillsborough County Commissioners in a letter Monday that it won't support the proposed transportation sales tax referendum as it currently stands.

In a letter sent to all commissioners, Tampa Bay Group Sierra Club Chair Kent Bailey urged the board to increase the amount of funding for transit options that would come from the half-cent sales tax referendum known as Go Hillsborough.

(Read the full letter here)

"Finally, we say once again — Sierra Club does not support a 30 year "road tax" with only 25% of the proceeds dedicated to public transportation (and a portion of 10% possibly available in some cases) while earmarking 65% for roads," Bailey wrote. "Locking in public transit funding at such a low level for such a long term will not meet future needs."

Other advocates say the portion dedicated to transit could actually be as high as 45-percent, as each jurisdiction has the ability to determine how it wants to spend its share of the dollars. And while a project list exists for the first 10 years, the projects the tax will fund in the latter two decades have not been finalized.

In the rest of the letter, the Sierra Club urged commissioners to fund public transportation needs without waiting for the referendum, which has yet to be put on the November ballot. This includes increased mobility fees requiring developers to pay more for the transportation solutions needed to support the growth they bring. And this should include transit options, not just roads, Bailey wrote.

The commission is already working on increasing mobility fees, but the Sierra Club is "concerned that the new fees may fall short."

Other suggested funding options include a 5-cent gas tax and the creation of a county-wide transportation trust account from a percentage of new recurring tax revenues that Sierra Club said will raise $36 million annually.

Many of these elements align with a plan Commissioner Sandy Murman floated last fall. Murman has continued to push alternatives to the proposed half-cent sales tax which would raise $117 million annually. Commissioners are expected to vote in April on whether to put the referendum on the November ballot.