Hillsborough Commissioners agree on city-county split for transit tax funds

02/25/10 Seán Kinane
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Because of a massive federal grant, Tampa is likely to be on one end of a bullet train that will connect to Orlando and eventually Miami. But whether passengers arriving in Tampa will have access to robust interconnected transportation options could depend on the mood of Hillsborough voters this November to raise their own taxes.

Today Commissioner Jim Norman, who opposes that sales tax increase, accused supporters of trying to hide where much of the revenue would go by not including the term “rail” in the proposal. But Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a leading supporter of the transit tax referendum, disagreed in a testy exchange between the two.

Norman suggested that bus service could be enhanced with a quarter of a cent of CIT, or Community Investment Tax, funds instead of the penny sales tax increase. But Sharpe said that the county’s road needs would still not be funded, unless the one cent sales tax for transit passes, with a quarter of the revenue reserved for roads.

If it passes, revenue from the transit referendum will likely be split: 3/4 will go toward mass transit, including rail, and the remaining 1/4 will go toward roads.

Yesterday, the mayors of the three cities in Hillsborough wrote a letter to Commissioner Ken Hagan. They suggested that 90% of the revenue from the portion reserved for roads should go to projects in the unincorporated county during the first ten years. The remaining 10% would be split between their three cities. That proposal passed today, 4-3, but Hagan acknowledges there is still confusion about what will be included in November’s referendum.

The three Commissioners who voted against the distribution percentages were Jim Norman and Al Higginbotham, who have opposed the tax increase from the beginning, and Rose Ferlita, who has supported the referendum in the past.

Other details on the transit referendum will be hashed out in a Hillsborough County Commission discussion that is tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday.

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