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Mitch Perry Report for 5.12.16 – The proposed tax that will not go away

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

So, Go Hillsborough is somehow still alive?

Though they haven’t set a date yet, apparently there will be another public hearing on putting a sales tax referendum on the ballot this November. On Wednesday, voted to support a half-cent sales tax for 15 years, and not the 30-year plan that was shot down two weeks ago.

As the Tampa Bay Times reports this morning, the BOCC methodically went through a series of votes on potential revenue sources to pay for transportation improvements, and rejected each one of them, including raising the gas tax. They also refused to cut into the constitutional office budgets.

Talk about a Hail Mary.

There was controversy when seemingly overnight last year, the Go Hillsborough proposal was reduced from a one-cent sales tax to a half-cent. Proponents behind the measure said that was due to public opinion polling which showed that a full-cent tax could not pass.

That cut the revenues that the tax would have generated in half overnight. But like so much else with the plan, one could argue it made sense if you believed that its whole raison d’être was to get something — anything — passed and begin the process of putting serious improvements in transportation; not just the for county, but the region.

It’s been nearly six long years since Moving Hillsborough Forward one-cent transit tax bit the dust. It took four years to bring back a similar initiative across the bay with Greenlight Pinellas, which also bit it at the ballot box badly.

Even with all its attendant problems, the board refused to put this new measure up two weeks ago, when deciding voter Victor Crist said he was going to go with his “intuition” to kill the opportunity for the residents of Hillsborough to decide on their own if the plan was worthy of consideration.

Now this.

One thing supporters of a shorter duration tax have never convincingly been able to articulate is what evidence they have that reluctant Hillsborough County taxpayers will support a tax. Just because it’s shorter? If there is any evidence of that, it’d be great to see.

Sure, a 15-year-tax gives some commissioners — like Al Higginbotham — “a lot less heartburn.” So congratulations to those who believe a shorter tax could get buy-in from the board.

But again, where’s the proof that this will be any more palatable to a reluctant public.

And what about Bob? Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn‘s spokesperson told us yesterday that the mayor was still digesting the news and curious about what this now even further diluted revenue source could help the city out with its transit needs.

In case you forget, there are a lot of people in Tampa who think that Go Hillsborough was crafted in a way to take the votes of people in Tampa for granted, who showed back even in 2010 that they could accept paying more in taxes for improvements in transportation — and specifically transit.

Stay tuned …

In other news …

Well, that much-hyped “deal” between ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft and the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission didn’t actually happen, as we thought might be the case.

Tim Canova has raised over a million dollars in his upstart campaign to oust Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from her Congressional District 23 seat in South Florida.

Speaking of DWS, she insists that the Dems will come together in the City of Brotherly Love this July and come together, but noises out of the Bernie Sanders camp sure don’t sound that way.

Dan Fiorini in the House District 70 seat (Pinellas and parts of Manatee, Hillsborough and Sarasota) is feeling good these days, once again usurping better known Wengay Newton in fundraising in their contest.

Consumers for Smart Solar raised over $8.5 million last month for their controversial ballot initiative, with over $7 million of that coming from the public utilities. 

The advocacy group Florida Strong continues their campaign against St. Petersburg-based GOP state Senator Jeff Brandes, this time for his support of for-profit charter schools in the wake of some negative news about a company who works with four such charter schools in Pinellas.

And a new poll from Quinnipiac says that Floridians are down on Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Barack Obama, but keen on Senator Bill Nelson.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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