Wednesday, April 1, 2020
4-3 Vote: No $16B Transit Tax on November Ballot in Hillsborough
Hillsborough County Commission will not be putting any proposed All for Transportation 2.0 $16 Billion transit tax on the November ballot - if the Florida Supreme Court throws out the All for Transportation tax passed in 2018.
Go here to listen to today's Special Meeting that was a virtual meeting with audio only. Note the meeting starts at about 15:15 on the Youtube recording.
The Special meeting was called by Commission Chair Les Miller. Miller began the meeting with his Motion to defer pursuing any proposed transit tax hike until 2021. To his credit, Miller compassionately and eloquently stated the many reasons why he was making the motion that would stop the pursuit of putting a massive tax hike on the ballot during this time of crisis.
Commissioner Murman immediately seconded Miller's motion.
The virtual meeting had some technical snafus. When Public comment was opened up, less than half of the 30 people who had signed up to make a comment were able to get in to make a comment.
The lack of compassion displayed by the same downtown Tampa cronies who helped fund the unlawful All for Transportation $16 Billion transit tax in 2018 is astonishing. The Tampa Chamber, the Downtown Partnership and land use attorney Ron Weaver all spoke opposing Miller's motion to defer and wanted the commissioners to support putting another massive transit tax on the ballot in November - pending the Florida Supreme Court ruling.
At this time of the Coronavirus crisis and its economic devastation in Hillsborough and in Florida; while businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs, these special interests support higher sales taxes.
Commissioner Smith asked the County Attorney for the timeline for noticing the public hearing and to meet the statutory audit requirement for putting a referendum on the November ballot. The deadline for requesting the required audit for a tax hike proposal in November is May 7.
Smith is worried more about making a timeline for a tax hike referendum in November than focusing on the crisis at hand. Smith made a substitute motion to bring back the discussion of rescheduling a public hearing for a sales tax hike on the November tax ballot hike to the regular April 15 BOCC Board meeting. Commissioner Kemp immediately seconded that motion.
The discussion on Smith's substitute motion was astonishing as Smith, Kemp and Overman displayed a lack of compassion and tone deafness at this time of crisis. Smith stated that even with a financial crisis we may need this [$16 Billion transit tax] more than ever for vulnerable workers who need reliable transportation to get back to work and cannot afford a car.
It does not take a $16 Billion transit tax hike to provide transit services to the transit dependent. It takes a $16 Billion transit tax hike to fund costly rail systems in Tampa to benefit downtown developers.
Miller excoriated Smith and Kemp for the substitute motion.
Kemp states there is no reason to shut down pursuing the proposed massive tax hike. Kemp's priority is the county must have a local transit tax to go after matching federal funds for transit. Kemp is complaining about not getting matching state and federal transit funds when her county constituents are locked down, are not working, losing their jobs and have bills to pay.
Overman arrogantly weighed in stating she did not hear many comments about people hurting about paying a tax they are already paying. She claims AFT 2.0 is to preserve the unlawful transit tax voted on in 2018 we are still awaiting the Florida Supreme Court ruling on. Overman sounded tone-deaf to the economic suffering of local businesses, individuals and families are currently facing.
Smith, Kemp and Overman, all Democrat countywide commissioners, did themselves no favors today. They displayed naïveté and lack of judgment. On the same day Governor DeSantis orders a statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus that will cause more people to lose their jobs, the lack of compassion by these three commissioners is revolting.
Voters should take note that Kemp is running for re-election in November and remember where she places her priorities in a time of crisis - supporting transit tax hikes that benefit wealthy downtown developers.
Smith's substitute motion to keep pursuing the AFT 2.0 $16 Billion transit tax was voted down 3-4.
Miller's original motion to delay pursuing any transit tax until 2021 passed 4-3. Commissioners Miller, Murman, Hagan and White voted Yes and Commissioners Smith, Overman and Kemp voted No.
In Hillsborough County, at least for now, there will be not be another transit tax hike put on the November ballot.
We await the Florida Supreme Court ruling on the 2018 All for Transportation transit tax. If the AFT transit tax gets thrown out, then taxpayers and businesses in Hillsborough County will get what they may need most - some tax relief.