Thursday, January 31, 2019

Confusion Reigns with All for Transportation's Transit Tax Hike

The All for Transportation (AFT) 30 year $16 Billion transit tax hike charter amendment is one big mess. It is 5 pages of misleading spending regulations confusing to all.

Commissioner White's lawsuit is beginning to unravel the big mess AFT created. The unraveling continues as White sheds more light on the big mess at the January 24th BOCC meeting.

Local media, AFT, county commissioners and others were falsely accusing White that his lawsuit was delaying spending of the tax proceeds But White informed his peer board members and the public what AFT's charter amendment actually states about when AFT's sales tax proceeds can be spent.

The video and captioning of the January 24th meeting on the county's website is found here. In the video, White's comments begin at about 22:34 or about 4 minutes from the end. A copy of White's comments from the closed caption transcript can be found here.

White cited Section 11.06 of AFT's charter amendment below. Entire AFT charter amendment can be found here.
Section 11.06 of AFT tax hike
Charter Amendment
(click to enlarge)
No AFT sales tax proceeds collected in 2019 can be expended until January 2020. All of the agencies receiving the tax proceeds must submit their spending plans to unelected bureaucrats appointed to the Independent Oversight Committee (IOC), for their approval before the agency can spend the proceeds in the following calendar year.

The language in the AFT charter amendment debunks the #FakeNews narrative advanced by the Times and others that White's lawsuit was delaying spending the tax proceeds in 2019.

In addition, White discovered that Section 11.06 was somehow missing in the official County Charter updated with the AFT tax hike charter amendment language after the election. This is a critical section of the amendment that dictates what must occur to spend the tax funds and when they can be spent.

Below is the County Charter with the AFT charter amendment that was on the county's website January 24, 2019 missing Section 11.06 of the charter amendment.
County Charter missing Section 11.06
The County has since inserted the missing Section 11.06 into the official County Charter.

Lots of questions need to be answered and we're seeking answers. How did this happen? Were there multiple version of the charter amendment floating around the county? Were there versions floating around that had excluded Section 11.06 or excluded any other section?

The local media buzz (see links below) over the last few weeks claimed White's lawsuit was delaying HART from ordering 30 buses to be delivered by December and delaying the ordering of 8 electric buses at a cost of $10 million (over a million dollars each).

Democrat county commissioners Kimberly Overman and Pat Kemp both supported the AFT tax hike and were concerned about the lawsuit delaying transit spending by HART. Kemp even wanted the county to hand HART half of the county's Community Investment Tax (CIT) reserves, $10 million, to buy the 8 costly electric buses - for the 2% who use transit in Hillsborough County.

Apparently these commissioners were not concerned about much needed road projects on roads that 98% in Hillsborough County use everyday. None of the 2019 tax proceeds being collected now can be spent on any road purposed projects until 2020. Did voters know?

I spoke to Jeff Seward, the interim CEO of HART, to ask him about claims that the lawsuit was delaying HART from using the tax proceeds that are already being collected. He said HART's attorney David Smith recently informed him and the HART Board, via a memo, of AFT's timing considerations related to the spending of the tax proceeds.

Smith sent his memo to HART on January 24, 2019, apparently right after Commissioner White informed the public and his peer commissioners at the January 24 BOCC meeting of the actual language in Section 11.06 of AFT's charter amendment.

Smith's memo states:
Memo from HART's attorney to HART Board
January 24, 2019
(click to enlarge)
This confirms some of the powers AFT specifically gave to the IOC, unelected bureaucrats accountable to no one. The IOC can approve or disapprove plans and they can delay any changes to a plan that an agency requests.

Seward said he nor members of the HART Board were aware of Section 11.06 and the timing considerations. We confirmed with a HART Board member they were not aware of Section 11.06 until they received Smith's memo on January 24.

HART has been in a recruitment process for a new CEO since right after the election and candidates applying knew the transit tax had passed. Regardless of White's lawsuit, no candidate who applied was told about Section 11.06 - that HART cannot spend any of the almost $140 million they will receive in 2019 until 2020.

In addition, AFT wrote their charter amendment based on the calendar year that non-governmental entities use. AFT neglected the fiscal year of the government agencies receiving AFT's tax proceeds that runs from October 1 through September 30. That is a reflection of AFT incompetence or willful neglect.

If county commissioners and others from the agencies receiving AFT's tax proceeds were misled, misinformed or simply unaware of Section 11.06, we can bet voters were too.

This is just one section of AFT's charter amendment no one understood in a charter amendment that includes 5 pages of regulatory appropriations. There are certainly other sections of AFT's charter amendment that are misunderstood, are misleading or that voters, taxpayers and others are totally unaware of.

And it appears that AFT did not understand their own charter amendment.

After Seward found out about Section 11.06, he found it odd that when he met right after the election with Christina Barker, AFT spokesperson and employee of Jeff Vinik, she wanted to know how quickly HART could put new services on the street. Of course those new services requires the tax proceeds.

AFT spokesperson Brian Willis told Tampa Bay Business Journal “Commissioner White’s lawsuit is costing taxpayers more money while delaying the improvements needed to save lives and prevent accidents throughout our community.”

Willis should read his own charter amendment.

The 16 member IOC has not been created, no agency has a plan to deliver to the IOC and no tax proceeds collected in 2019 can be spent until 2020.

If AFT does not understand their charter amendment, we can bet voters did not either.

But as AFT spokesperson Christina Barker publicly stated just days before the election:
Our story is one of a few people who got together. We were writing a charter amendment over drinks. 
Just as drinking while driving is dangerous, drinking while law making can create a big mess - for all of us.

Unfortunately, AFT's big mess is unfolding after the election.

Related links:

All for Transportation asks court to dismiss lawsuit against Hillsborough sales tax

Uncertainty over lawsuit puts Hillsborough’s transportation plans on ice

Voter-approved transportation sales tax referendum gets questioned, could delay funding projects

1 comment:

  1. You had to pass it to find out what was in it. So in FY 2021 they will split up at least $486 million dollars, none of which can be used for increasing road capacity. Many intersections will be torn up and my commute from Valrico to Westshore will take longer. Glad I drive to Polk against traffic to shop. Keep up the good work!