Here’s a question for opponents of the Hillsborough County’s All For Transportation initiative. If their push to overturn the sales tax is successful, what is their plan to alleviate the county’s choking traffic?
I haven’t heard of one, and I don’t think opponents have thought that far ahead. They want the transportation tax overturned.
Last November, voters overwhelmingly approved a 1 percent sales tax increase, and all seemed ducky. They saw a breakdown of proposed projects and what each one cost.
But then County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit that attacked a key portion of the referendum. An oversight committee was supposed to ensure politicians didn’t divert the money for other uses.
Florida voters have learned never to trust politicians around a large pot of money. Lawmakers frequently find ways to subvert the marching orders they received from the electorate. That’s why the oversight committee was part of the referendum.
White argued that only elected bodies could decide how to spend the money. A judge agreed but said the tax was legal. White then appealed to the state Supreme Court to have the whole thing thrown out.
It was always about the oversight committee, right commissioner?
Other conservatives have joined his cause, and a lawyer for the Republican-dominated Florida House filed a brief that declared the amendment’s language in the multi-page charter amendment was “deceptive.”
Given the conservative bent of the high court, no one will be surprised if the justices overturn the tax. White and his supporters will celebrate, but will anybody have won anything?
Opponents have excelled at yapping about any transportation tax, but that’s where they stop. Numerous studies show Hillsborough’s traffic is a major roadblock, so to speak, to long-term economic growth. That fact seems to escape White and those who support him.
But who needs a study? Just drive along Interstate 4 to and from downtown Tampa nearly any morning. Watch what happens along State Road 60 if there is a mild fender-bender. Watch how traffic comes to a standstill near the West Shore area.
So, we wait for the court to decide. A decision to uphold the tax but leave spending priorities up to elected leaders who are accountable to voters wouldn’t be the worst result.
Either way, though, it won’t be long before snowbirds start heading south for the winter. That means more traffic congestion, longer commutes, and frayed nerves.
Opponents don’t see that though. They only see that extra penny on the dollar they have to pay. That’s been their plan all along.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers. This column moved on FloridaPolitics.com.