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Judge: Hillsborough Transportation Tax Can Stay, But Commission To Decide Spending

Jun 17, 2019

A judge has ruled in favor of Hillsborough County’s voter-approved transportation tax. But the decision from Judge Rex Barbas also includes a win for opponents.  

Last year, 57 percent of Hillsborough voters approved the one-cent sales tax, which supporters said would use an oversight committee to decide which transportation projects receive funding. 

County Commissioner Stacy White argued that only the board of county commissioners should decide how tax money is spent, and he sued to overturn the tax.  

Barbas ruled Monday that the tax is constitutional, but sided with White on the oversight issue.  

“It is evident that the voters of Hillsborough County desire to improve transportation needs,” Barbas wrote. “It is further obvious to this Court that the electorate made their desires clear. The Constitution gives the power to apply sales taxes. The legislature has given certain counties the right to issue sales taxes under certain conditions. Therefore, those conditions must be followed if we are to be governed by law.” 

Barbas’ ruling also struck down funding allocations included in the November referendum, such as designating 45 percent of collected revenue to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit.

“We look forward to working with the Hillsborough County Board of County Commission (BOCC)...our goal is to partner with the BOCC to fulfill the taxpayers' vision,” HART CEO Ben Limmer said in a statement issued after the ruling.  

Tyler Hudson, chair of All For Transportation, which campaigned for the tax, said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times that he hopes commissioners will follow the funding formula set out in the referendum.