Greenlight Pinellas fundraising totals trump No Tax for Tracks ten fold

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The Greenlight Pinellas campaign closed out its fundraising with a total of $1,139,763 in contributions. That exceeded the group’s $1 million goal.

During the final push from October 18-30, the group raised $33,345 and spent $232,049. Their 12-day spending more than doubled what the group’s opposition raised throughout the entire campaign.

No Tax for Tracks brought in $96,794 with $8,085 coming in during the final fundraising period. The group spent $13,587 mostly on direct mailers. With three days until the election, the group is left with just $6,694. The fundraising deadline has come and past.

Nearly three quarters of the No Tax for Tracks funding has come from two donors. Tea Party activist Elizabeth Burgess kicked in about a quarter with a total of $24,780 in contributions. Jewelry artist Richard Canary is responsible for nearly half of the total funding after throwing in more than $45,000 of his own money. Those totals don’t even count in-kind contributions for things like printing and gift certificates.

The anti-tax, anti-rail group has been in an uphill funding battle with Greenlight Pinellas that has enjoyed large contributions from wealthy donors like all three of the Tampa Bay sporting teams – the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. All three wrote checks for $25,000 to support the transit referendum that would enhance public transportation in Pinellas County.

If approved, Greenlight Pinellas would increase the county’s sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent. It would bring the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s annual revenue to about $130 million compared to it’s current $30 million revenue largely from property taxes. The measure would cut the portion of property taxes currently paid for public transportation. It would pay for increased bus service, bus rapid transit and a passenger rail line connecting downtown St. Pete to downtown Tampa.

No Tax for Tracks opposes the plan for several reasons. Those include being opposed to a tax hike in general, the plan, they say, does not benefit residents in North County. They also claim a rail line isn’t needed and that PSTA should make it’s fleet more efficient by re-thinking some of its routes. They argue the agency could live within its means. However, PSTA has said that if Greenlight fails the agency will become insolvent by 2017 and be forced to reduce service.

A recent St. Pete Polls survey showed Greenlight failing among likely voters.

Friends of Greenlight, the committee handling the campaigns finance, received a $10,000 contrigution from Aecom Technology during this reporting period. United Healthcare Services kicked in $2,500 and Trenam Kemker Law Offices wrote a check for $5,000.

The group also brought in contributions from some high profile supporters. Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe who is pushing for a similar ballot measure on the other side of the bay contributed $25. PSTA CEO Brad Miller added $100 to the $1,475 he had already contributed. PSTA communications director Bob Lasher kicked in another $25 bringing his total contributions to $245. Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Stuart Rogel and former Pinellas County Commission candidate Johnny Johnson also wrote checks.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.