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Tampa Chamber poll on Go Hillsborough – 54% say it doesn’t go far enough

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

As promised, the folks over at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce have released the cross-tabs behind their somewhat mysterious press release last week regarding a recent poll they had conducted for them to gauge the support for Go Hillsborough. That’s the proposed half-cent sales transportation tax that could come before county voters this fall. Hillsborough County Commissioners will decide on whether to place the measure on the November ballot by the end of this month.

Last week the Chamber provided very little information regarding the poll, conducted by SEA Polling & Strategic Design, other than to report that support for it varied, “ranging from 47% to 54%.” They said they would release the questions and methodology after members of their board were able tor review the findings, which apparently has now happened.

The question about support was asked four times to the 400 people who participated. The first time the question was posed, 49 percent said they supported the increase, while 46 percent were opposed, with 5 percent undecided.

The pollsters then asked a series of questions related to specifics about fixing the transportation system in Hillsborough County, including asking respondents were the most important steps in improving it. With road construction being the dominant response, support then shot up to 54 percent, the highest level of support in the entire poll. A total of 39 percent opposed it, and seven percent were undecided.

Then pollsters then recited six different talking points made by supporters of a transportation tax, and then gauged their range of support. Among the arguments articulated included was that “When leaders try to recruit businesses to locate here, Hillsborough County finds itself at a disadvantage to other regions because of a reputation for not being friendly for commuters – specifically our lack of a modern public transportation system.”

After that and other lines used by supporters were posed to those being polled, 51 percent of respondents said they were likely to vote for the referendum, while 40 percent remain opposed, with 9 percent undecided.

The last time the question of support for the sales tax referendum was asked received the lowest level of support, with 47 percent stating they were likely to vote for the referendum, 48 percent against and 5 percent undecided.  The question of support was raised after hearing arguments used by those opposing the proposal.  The most convincing arguments were related to the respondents’ opinions of government, including that it is unfair to ask taxpayers to “pay for the problems created by developers who have gotten off scot-free for years.” The least convincing argument was that the sales tax increase would cost the average household in Hillsborough County just over $66 per year.

There are many critics of the Go Hillsborough plan. Those include fiscal conservatives who are generally opposed to such tax increases and voted against the Moving Hillsborough Forward plan in 2010.  Generally those critics are based outside of Tampa. Last week, County Commissioners emphasized that the plan contained more road construction than building a light-rail system in Tampa.

Conversely, supporters of such a light-rail system in Tampa have been disappointed by what came out of the final Go Hillsborough work product.

When asked if the plan goes too far or not far enough in solving the area’s traffic crisis, 54 percent said it did not go far enough, whereas 24 percent said it did goes too far.

The argument that the plan is too timid was repeated over the weekend in an editorial in the Tampa Bay Times, which labeled it “an underfunded, poorly designed plan that seeks to appease antitax conservatives in the suburbs at the expense of urban residents and puts off questions about rail, growth and regional connectivity until further down the road.”

If the County Commissioners approve of putting the measure on the ballot, supporters will have only six months to advocate on its behalf before it goes before the voters in November.

 

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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