It's way beyond time for Hillsborough County taxpayers to get back the $570M of illegal All for Transportation (AFT) tax dollars unlawfully taken from them. It's been over two years since the Florida Supreme Court ruled that AFT was unlawful in February 2021.
Finally, House Bill 7063 (starting at line 893) provides a final remedy to the big legal mess AFT created. HB7063 includes a provision for a sales tax holiday to be implemented when a final adjudication has been made that a local sales tax referendum is ruled unlawful and illegal.
This provision will provide a sales tax holiday for Hillsborough County to refund the over half a Billion dollars the County owes taxpayers.
A sales tax holiday is the most fair, most efficient and cleanest solution that will benefit the most taxpayers harmed by the 2018 illegal AFT transit tax.
The sales tax holiday will provide tax relief at a time of highest inflation in 40 years when so many are struggling. It will help businesses, especially small businesses, who pay sales tax on their commercial leases.
There is precedence by the State of Florida for implementing sales tax holidays.
There is no precedence by the State of Florida to somehow make an illegal tax a legal tax that can be spent and not returned to the most people who were harmed.
Statutorily allowing for a sales tax holiday when a local sales tax referendum is found unlawful sends a strong message to all 67 Florida counties. It is a warning to not place unlawful local tax referendums/ballot language on the ballot and think the County can still spend those illegal tax dollars.
However, this Florida Politics article reveals that a group of "business leaders" do not want a sales tax holiday. This group includes Jeff Vinik - AFT's largest donor, the Tampa Bay Partnership and other wealthy donors who funded the illegal AFT transit tax. They sent a letter to Governor DeSantis:
“With a $13 billion backlog in transportation projects in Hillsborough County, we ardently advocate that the funds collected through the 2018 Transportation Referendum Tax be applied in the same spirit under which they were collected; to improve transportation infrastructure in Hillsborough County,” the group wrote.
“We are concerned with the proposal under consideration in the Florida House of Representatives to refund $570 million through a sales tax holiday.”
Signatories include some major names in Hillsborough business, including Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson; Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld; Caspers Company CEO Blake Casper; Tampa General Hospital CEO John Couris; 1905 Family of Restaurants President Richard Gonzmart; Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano; Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Bryan Glazer; Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik; developers Darryl Shaw and Craig Sher; and others.
Many of the same wealthy people who funded the illegal AFT transit tax do not want the unlawfully collected AFT tax dollars going back into the wallets of the taxpayers directly harmed by their actions.
It appears from this Tampa Bay Times article, the Tampa Bay Partnership (TBP) orchestrated the letter to DeSantis.
The TBP claims they are the "Thought Leadership" of Tampa Bay.
In reality, the Tampa Bay Partnership (TBP) is the lead transit lobbyist organization in Tampa Bay.
Since 2010, the TBP has pushed and funded four rail/transit tax referendums, three in Hillsborough and one in Pinellas. They have been on the losing side of all four transit tax hike boondoggles.
That is poor leadership.
The letter to DeSantis includes a claim that misrepresents reality. As we posted here, a super majority of the $13B backlog is for transportation improvements on state and federal highways and interstates. These projects are funded by state and federal taxes we already pay. They are NOT funded by a local transportation sales tax.
Parroting the half-baked claims from AFT's transit tax misinformation campaign reflects a lack of candor.
Why aren't these "business leaders" shining a big bright light on how Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa have failed to properly fund local roads - a primary responsibility of local government?
The "business leaders" should be demanding accountability and fiscal responsibility from Hillsborough County, the city of Tampa and the Hillsborough TPO.
That takes real courage.
The TBP and the AFT donor class did not even learn their lesson after the 2018 AFT transit tax was ruled unlawful. They simply funded another AFT transit tax boondoggle misinformation campaign in 2022.
The 2022 AFT transit tax hike was also ruled unlawful by a Circuit Court judge but was allowed to remain on the ballot after the County filed an appeal. Thankfully it was defeated at the ballot box last year.
The TBP and AFT's wealthy donors are both wrong-doers and losers. They funded unlawful tax hikes, they lost the AFT lawsuit and they got defeated at the ballot last year.
Wrong-doers and Losers must not be rewarded.
Why should their opinion be worth much?
House Bill 7063 passed the House and has been sent over to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Now the Senate must pass HB7063 with the sales tax holiday included and no 11th hour maneuvering to remove it.
Give the taxpayers in Hillsborough County the $570 Million sales tax holiday they deserve.