HART Board Mulls Transit Tax Ballot Language listen03/01/10 Kate Bradshaw
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The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Board today mulled over how it will propose a sweeping transit overhaul to voters in November. The ballot question will ask Hillsborough voters whether they want to fund the multi-billion dollar project which includes light rail, bus line and road improvements with a one percent sales tax increase.
Supporters say this would change the way Tampa Bay commutes - possibly good news for a region recently voted worst in the nation for commuters. HART board members and Hillsborough commissioners werenâ€™t sure how detailed they should get on the ballot limited to 75 words. Board member Steven Polzin, who represents Tampa, said the future is too uncertain for specifics.
â€œI get nervous about the more specificity we put in the details of the spending plan. I realize you need to paint a picture for the public; I understand that but these are extraordinarily dynamic times,â€ Polson said.
Details listed in the proposed text include expansion of the bus system to more than 560 buses and splitting the funding 75 to 25 percent for rapid-transit and road projects, respectively. Local rail is also mentioned though it had previously been pulled. Polzin cited the buses as another example of what shouldnâ€™t be included on the ballot.
â€œEven the reference to 560 buses. It would take us years to house, purchase, procure, receive. ... Nobody knows how many buses we have today, anyway,â€ he said.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner said the 75-25 clause might be too restrictive in the future. The intricacies of a transit overhaul should be included in policy documents not on the ballot he added.
â€œTo put a 75-25 on a referendum that might tie the hands of future governments, I donâ€™t know if I would advocate that because things change over time,â€ Beckner said.
Beckner said detailed referendum language was no substitute for educating the public on the issue before the election.
â€œYou canâ€™t get the entire educational piece of what this is about in ballot language in 75 words. ...We canâ€™t expect that every single detail about the referendum is going to be contained in 75 words,â€ he said.
Board members hope to finalize the ballot language by May. County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is scheduled to hold a meeting today to address all remaining questions on the penny transit tax issue. He will also take up the issue at Wednesdayâ€™s Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Previous WMNF coverage of the proposed transit tax overhaul: Hillsborough Commissioners agree on city-county split for transit tax funds.
Previous WMNF coverage of the proposed transit tax overhaul: Hillsborough County Transportation Task Force on transit funding.