After three years of meetings, workshops and public hearings, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners Thursday night struck down a referendum on the November ballot that would have allowed the public to vote for a half cent sales tax for transportation.
Crumbling roads, aging infrastructure and weak public transportation were cited by commissioners and residents as ongoing issues.
After hearing from nearly 70 members of the public, who were evenly split about the tax, commissioners struck it down.
Victor Crist, Hillsborough’s District 2 representative, said he voted against the referendum because he thinks the public doesn't know enough about the complexities of transportation to make a decision.
"After my own research, my own study, I really don't believe the voters are prepared for this right now," Crist said. "To my friends that are out there and disagreeing with me and nodding their heads, sometimes we have to do our own due diligence, and I've done mine."
Tim Curtis of Plant City pleaded against the tax, saying commissioners did not budget properly. The money to fix transportation issues exists in the current budget, he said. He also said commissoiners contradicted themselves about reliable sources of income.
"I find it instructive and revealing about the lack of knowledge of economics to say that property taxes are an unreliable source of tax revenue while in the same breath that sales are unaffected by a declining economy," Curtis said.
Commissioner Les Miller Jr. was disappointed that the public will not be allowed to vote.
"Let's talk about the fact of suppressing the vote," Miller said. "I’m looking around this room and I’m probably one of the oldest African Americans in here and I can remember my momma and daddy couldn’t vote. And now, tonight, we have people talking about not letting the people vote, suppressing the vote in 2016.
“We’ve come a long way from that. So let’s not sit here and say 'public, you cannot vote. You don’t have the wherewithal, you don’t understand what’s before you, so we’re not going to let you vote.' That’s absolutely wrong."
Commissioners who voted against the referendum said it was a waste of time when voters would likely reject it.
The board instead voted 4-3 to consider an ordinance, proposed Wednesday, that could set up two general funds for incorporated and unincorporated parts of the county, and to establish a citizen committee.