Both sides on November's referendum to replace property taxes with a sales tax hike in Pinellas County are gearing up their campaigns. The opposition has brought in a big-name consultant, who will take part in a debate Tuesday night in St. Petersburg. WUSF's Steve Newborn spoke to Randal O'Toole about why he rails against light rail.
O'Toole has written several articles that claim no light rail projects have been worth the cost - anywhere. The senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute will square off at St Petersburg Community Church, 501 30th Avenue N., against Chris Steinocher, President of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the Friends of Greenlight Pinellas.
O'Toole says a poll commissioned by No Tax for Tracks, the anti-referendum group, shows a big lead against the tax.
"Whenever you propose to increase taxes to make your tax rate the highest in the state you're in, you're going to get a lot of opposition," he says. "People know that high taxes are a burden, that high taxes cause people to turn away from the area, causes businesses to leave - or at least not move into the area."
O'Toole says technology will eventually come to the rescue of congested cities. He says driverless cars will soon change the face of transportation.
Backers of the Greenlight Pinellas initiative say we can't just keep adding lanes to existing roads. They say replacing a property tax with a sales tax would not just build a light rail line, but revamp the bus system in the entire county.