Hillsborough Commissioners Approve Transit Tax Referendum

The Hillsborough County Commission voted 5-2 to approve creating a voter's referendum for a 1-cent sales tax for transit.

The referendum will take place in November 2010. The funds will mainly be used for mass transit. Some will be used for roads and other transportation improvements.

Supporters applauded the vote not only as a way to move people as an alternative to crowded roads and a limited bus system, but also as a development and redevelopment tool, where businesses would be drawn to transit stations and companies might expand in the Tampa Bay region because of better transportation for workers, vendors and customers. It would also create jobs, they say.

Those supporters included the boards of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the Westshore Alliance and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Commissioners Mark Sharpe, Kevin White, Rose Ferlita, Kevin Beckner and Ken Hagan voted for the resolution.

"This is critical for a more competitive community," says Henry Gonzalez III, executive vice president with the Bank of Tampa and chairman of the board of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents said an additional tax, which would push Hillsborough and Tampa into one of the highest rates in the nation, was not a good idea during a weaker economy, when many people are struggling to pay bills and find work. Commissioners Al Higginbotham and Jim Norman voted against the referendum. The cost of the sales tax increase for a typical household would be about $142 a year or about $85 for a single person.

Norman also questioned ridership figures for a proposed rail system.

"I want to make sure we're planning something on solid ground," Norman says.

Writer: Dave Szymanski

Source: Henry Gonzalez, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

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