Hillsborough County Sales Tax (November 2010)
This measure was defeated
- YES 124,720 (41.89%)
- NO 172,988 (58.11%)
The county commissioners decided to put a one cent tax referendum on the November ballot to help with the county's road system. Their budget at the time could not help pay for needed expansion, so this tax would mainly go towards expanding the county's light rail system.
Path to the Ballot
Issues had arisen with this measure, the fact that it didn't completely verify to be on the ballot and that Commissioners had been still debating the issue, but most notably were unsure they wanted to give voters this choice in November when the issue was first brought up. One of the main issues holding this measure back had been the ballot wording and how to frame the question to be fair for voters. Official language was finally approved March 18, with five commissioners in favor and two against. Next for the commissioners was to approve what roads would be included in this project and what portion of the tax money would go towards other transportation fixes. Agreements between the cities within the county also need to be reached. The commissioners also held public hearings in April to help educate voters about the measure.
On April 22, the issue went through its final reading and was formerly placed on the November ballot. Though some commissioners believe the tax will fail, they still felt that the voters wanted a say on it. Some also said in the ongoing debate about the issue, that the region should support the tax and not just Hillsborough alone.
May 13 was the final vote on the matter, a last formality to ensure the measure is approved to be voted on by residents. People for and against the issue had a chance to voice their opinions and get their views out to other residents.
The county commission approved this measure, 5-2 to be on the November ballot during their May 13 meeting. Most resident who attended the meeting showed their support for letting this issue be decided upon by voters, an issue that had been a long time coming for many residents. Those commissioners who were against the tax hike did though agree that residents should be given the option to decide for themselves if they want to support commuter rail systems with the tax increase. Opponents to the measure noted that it was the wrong time to raise any taxes and that there was no financial plan with how the money would be spent suggested the commission would not use the money how the people wanted.
The main argument that opponents were putting forward against this measure was that if enacted, this would give Hillsborough County the highest sales tax in the state. The fact that many families were struggling and economic times were tight led to louder cries against more taxes for residents.
Opponents also pointed out that the rail agency, HART, had not decided on the routes it will develop if the measure is approved. Though HART quickly said that more research needs to be done and would rather have the right locations decided on then be too hasty, opponents pointed out that they should be able to move quick enough to let voters know where potential new rail areas could be rather then tell them after the election. It also showed that the agency was not able to plan quickly and that could hurt ratings at the polls.
Another argument noted was that the benefit would not go to all in the county, only a small portion of people are expected to use the light rail system. Proposals for the rail system in areas could also increase the amount of cars on the road, one consultant noted. They also noted that the costs far exceeds the benefit in regards to reducing traffic.
The main group opposed to the measure, No Tax For Tracks pointing out that the cities being compared to Hillsborough are not faring well with their light rail system and are in more debt than many other cities. Also noting that this would be more wasteful use of tax money when it could be used for better projects.
The main argument in favor of this measure was the fact that the county if far behind many others in the state in regards to public transportation systems. Also, the county cannot keep up with the influx of traffic that was expected as the county continues to grow, this measure would help ease that stress.
An AAA Auto Club South telephone survey was conducted March 16-19 to gauge resident support for the tax. Approximately 250,000 residents were survey, of those 52 percent supported the tax and 48 percent was against it. The proposed tax would give 75 percent of the funds to transit projects and the other 25 to non transit projects. Of those interviewed, 49 percent said the funding was too heavy towards transit projects and 44 percent said it was fine. The results were sent to the county commission and it was suggested that the funding should be more balanced.
- Hillsborough County Elections, November Election Results (dead link)
- WUSF, "Light Rail Rolling Toward 2010 Ballot," December 2, 2009
- St. Petersburg Times, "Give voters a say on Hillsborough transit plan," March 17, 2010
- WTSP, "Ballot issue on light rail derailed for now," March 10, 2010
- St Petersburg Times, "After much debate, ballot wording for Hillsborough transit tax wins approval," March 18, 2010
- The Tampa Tribune, "Sales tax ballot question approved," March 18, 2010 (dead link)
- The St. Petersburg Times, "Transit tax issue to get final public hearing," April 22, 2010
- The Daily Loaf, "Public’s turn to weigh in on if there should be a ballot measure for light rail in Hillsborough County," May 12, 2010
- St. Petersburg Times, "Hillsborough County Commission okays referendum on commuter rail," May 14, 2010
- St. Petersburg Times, "Rail opponent claims penny tax for commuter rail would give Hillsborough state's highest sales tax," June 8, 2010
- St. Petersburg Times, "Hillsborough rail planning gets off the track," August 19, 2010
- WUSF, "Light Rail Opponents Pick Up Steam," September 22, 2010
- The Examiner, "Once we built a railroad," October 23, 2010
- Tampa Bay Business Journal, "Penny tax to support light rail will go on November ballot," May 14, 2010