'Tax swap' for (or is it against?) Pinellas light rail approved by House

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What was expected to be a local issue – whether a property tax should go away if Pinellas County voters approve a sales tax increase of light rail – was heavily debated Monday on the House floor before being approved and sent to the Senate, reports the News Service of Florida. The bill (HB 865) says that the local commission approves a referendum, and the people approve of the one cent sales tax increase, the Pinellas County Suncoast Transit Authority would lose the ability to collect property tax. The bill sponsor, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, said passing the bill would avoid a “double tax” on the residents of Pinellas County. But the sales tax would generate more revenue than the property tax does – so opponents said the measure amounted to a tax increase. Pinellas transit officials back the bill, with opponents saying that’s because the swap would likely be necessary to persuade voters to approve the sale tax increase for light rail. Opponents said even opening the door for a tax increase is the same as a tax increase. The measure passed 92-21 and goes to the Senate.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.