Hillsborough County Group Launches Campaign For Transit Sales Tax Referendum
A group calling themselves All for Transportation is looking to revive efforts to fund transportation improvements in Hillsborough County through a penny sales tax increase.
The proposed referendum to the county charter would raise about $280 million per year through the sales tax hike starting in 2019. County commissioners refused to put the issue on the ballot in 2016, voting down the Go Hillsborough initiative. Hillsborough County voters also rejected a similar one-cent sales tax proposal in 2010.
Tampa lawyer Tyler Hudson, who is leading All for Transportation, said he thinks the level of frustation with the county's transportation infrastructure and public transit options will bring a different result this time around.
"When you're looking at the population growth we are going to see probably in the next 30 years, we can't afford waiting any longer in investing in ourselves," he said. "We think it's time for Hillsborough County to have this choice about what kind of future we want."
Unlike the failed 2010 referendum, the proposed ballot measure would not allot money for specific transportation fixes like light rail or expanded bus service. It would instead give 45 percent of the funds raised to the Hillsborough Regional Transit Authority and the rest of the money to Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. The agencies would then decide on what projects to fund, with guidance from the long-term transportation plan created by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
In order to get on the ballot, All for Transportation will need to get 49,000 signatures by July 27. Hudson said the group plans to file official ballot language with the county by the end of the week and have people out collecting signatures by Monday.
Hudson, who has worked for a number of Democratic presidential campaigns, said he believes the proposed referendum reaches across party lines. Nancy and Robert Walkins of Tampa, who are in charge of the group's political committee, are both well-known Republican donors.
"Republicans and Democrats both hate traffic," he said. "I think in all corners of the county there is the belief that we need to do more to improve our transportation system."
The proposed ballot measure would also include a provision to create a citizens review board that will audit how the tax revenue is used. Hudson said the review board will have the power to withhold funds if an agency is misusing funds.
If All for Transportation can collect enough signatures, the referendum would go before voters during the midterm elections in November. The measure will join more than one dozen referenda already on the ballot.