Hillsborough County Commission passes transit ballot question language

03/17/10 Kate Bradshaw
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After months of debating how to ask voters to approve a one-cent sales tax increase to fund transit, the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners has approved language for the November ballot.

They were given three wording options. Option A left out the percentage of the revenue that would go toward public transit vs. road projects. B and C didn’t. They went with option C, which Commissioner Rose Ferlita proposed because of its structure.

Al Higginbotham was one of two commissioners to reject the language. He said wanted to see something else spelled out for voters.

Commissioner Jim Norman, who rejects the transit overhaul tax entirely, was the other dissenting vote. He told commissioners and members of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Board that sooner or later the multi-billion dollar transit overhaul will fail.

Prior to voting, the Board heard from Utilities and Commerce Administrator Mike Merrill, who said that he sought the advice of three Goldman-Sachs bankers, who had consulted Denver and Houston on their transit systems. Their advice? To remain flexible in the face of uncertainty.

The commission also discussed aspects of an interlocal agreement that Hillsborough and the county’s three cities would forge. Regional connectivity has been stressed.

Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard is Vice Chair of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority. He commended the Board for their initiative, but stressed that connectivity among counties is vital.

Public hearings on the referendum will start April Fifteenth.

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