Tuesday, December 5, 2023

State Must Pass Hillsborough County Sales Tax Holiday, NOT Reward AFT Wrong-Doers, Mischief Makers and Lawsuit Losers

All for Transportation's (AFT) wealthy special interests donors are at it again. They want to again deny Hillsborough County taxpayers a sales tax holiday that will return $600M of illegally collected AFT sales tax dollars back to the taxpayers.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports:
A group of 96 business leaders have sent a letter to state leaders requesting the return of almost $600 million in unspent transportation surtax funds back to Hillsborough County.

About 57% of voters approved a one-cent sales tax increase in 2018 to fund transportation projects, but the Florida Supreme Court overturned it in early 2021. During last year's legislative session, the Florida House of Representatives considered a sales tax holiday that would be in place until the proceeds are spent. The Florida Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis' proposed budget called for a different refund plan; lawmakers couldn't agree to a proposal by the end of session.
Tampa Bay CEOs want a decision made in 2024 — and for local transportation projects to be the beneficiary.

"The funds collected for transportation should be spent on transportation, which provides the best return on investment for residents and taxpayers," the leaders wrote in a letter dated Nov. 29.
The letter was sent to Gov. DeSantis, Speaker of House Paul Renner, Senate President Kathleen C. Passidomo and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue.

Hillsborough County and FDOT District 7 were listed as two possibilities for who could spend the funds. A similar letter was sent toward the end of last year's legislative session. This time, the group opted to get the message out before the session starts in January.
The group is comprised of some of Tampa Bay's top business leaders, including but not limited to: (those highlighted in red are the biggest AFT donors)
  • Brian Auld, president of the Tampa Bay Rays
  • Bryan Glazer, owner and co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Archie Collins, president and CEO of Tampa Electric
  • Tom James, chairman emeritus of Raymond James Financial Inc.
  • Ken Jones, founder and managing partner of Third Lake Partners
  • Larry Morgan, chairman of Morgan Auto Group
  • Gary Sasso, president and CEO of Carlton Fields
  • Darryl Shaw, Ybor City developer
  • Bemetra Simmons, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership
  • Alex Sink, former CFO of Florida
  • Tready Smith, Bayshore Capital LLC CEO
  • Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner
  • Ron Wanek, chairperson of Ashley Furniture HomeStores
The wealthy AFT donors opposed the proposed sales tax holiday earlier this year that was passed by the State House but thwarted in the Senate. 

These transit lobbyists helped create the $600M refund issue. They are - ironically - lawyers, or who are surrounded by lawyers - who funded an unlawful transit tax. They also paid for AFT's high priced lawyers to fight against the taxpayers at the Florida Supreme Court trying to keep the illegal tax in place.

The lawsuit losers should have no say in how the issue is resolved. The Losers Do Not Get to be the Choosers for how to remedy a big legal mess they helped create.

And the same AFT wealthy donor base funded the 2022 AFT 2.0 last year that was also ruled unlawful by our Circuit Court. 

AFT 2.0 was allowed to remain on the ballot when the ruling was appealed. Another potential legal mess and refund issue was avoided when it was defeated at the ballot box. 

AFT's special interests donors are NOT leaders on the Transportation issue in Tampa Bay. They are Wrong-Doers, Lawsuit Losers and Mischief Makers. They have exhibited bad behavior pushing unlawful and illegal transit tax hikes - not just once - but twice. 

The fact is the Tampa Bay Partnership and their allies are 0 for 4 on all 4 proposed rail/transit tax campaigns they funded in Tampa Bay:  Moving Hillsborough Forward rail tax defeated in 2010, Greenlight Pinellas rail tax defeated in 2014, 2018 AFT transit tax ruled unlawful and 2022 AFT transit tax ruled unlawful and defeated at the ballot box. 

That is big time Losing not Leadership. 

We know of no precedence in Florida for magically making Illegally collected taxes legal so they can somehow be spent. The State legislature would be setting a very bad precedent if they decide unlawfully collected tax monies can be legally spent. Such precedence is ripe for abuse in the future.

There is precedence for sales tax holidays in Florida. 

The Florida State legislature cannot reward bad behavior. They must send a clear message to everyone that putting unlawful tax hike referendums on the ballot will not be tolerated. 

The wealthy AFT donors do not represent the best interests of the Hillsborough County taxpayers, many of whom are financially struggling with the high cost of everything. 

ALL of the unlawfully collected AFT transit tax dollars must be returned to the taxpayers. 

The State legislature must pass a sales tax holiday for Hillsborough County when the new legislative session starts in January. 

Hillsborough County taxpayers deserve no less.

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