Hillsborough reverses course, kills “back-up” sales tax for transit due to COVID…but just for now

“We are in uncertain times,” Hillborough County Commission chairman Les Miller, Jr said in justifying his motion to delay any consideration of a transit sales tax hike until next year. “We don’t know what our budget is going to look like. Now is not the time for us to be talking about raising a tax.” Listen to the entire county commission special meeting here, which was conducted remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today’s meeting was to start the process of placing the 1% transit sales tax hike back on the ballot this coming November if the Florida Supreme Court thows out the legally flawed tax hike effort in 2018. The Tampa Bay Guardian was the first news outlet to report on what appears to be a fatal flaw in that effort.

Ron Weaver

Ron Weaver the co-chair of Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Council and some other commenters urged the commission to instead go ahead with the public hearing on April 15th. Such a public hearing is required before placing a tax hike measure on the ballot, and it must be advertised at least 10 days before that.

Commissioner Mariella Smith asked County Attorney Christine Beck if they could delay the decision until April 15th, still meet the noticing deadlines, and be able to get the 1% tax hike on the ballot for November. Beck answered “yes.”

Smith then offered a substitute motion to take up the question of a hearing at the next regularly scheduled commission meeting on April 15th. Smith and others argued that since the tax is already in place and since people are already paying it, there is no additional burden.

“People are hurting, and they’re going to hurt worse,” Miller responded. “Today is April 1st. Rent is due. Mortgages are due. Car payments are due. Child support is due. All these other things are due, and people don’t have jobs.”

The substitute motion failed 4-3 with rookie commissioners Smith, Kimberly Overman and Pat Kemp voting yes.

Les Miller, Jr.

Voting then turned to Miller’s original motion, which passed 4-3, with the same  rookie commissioners stubbornly voting “no” in a break from the custom of seeking consensus on a procedural issue when one’s own substitute motion has failed.

Today’s decision is legally meaningless because it cannot bind future commission votes. However, for all practical purposes, the sales tax hike is dead unless the Florida Supreme Court upholds the one already passed. Observers don’t expect that to happen.

Miller, a skilled politician, may have also been assuming that the court will throw out the tax, and didn’t want to be in the position of defending the possible reinstatement of a sales tax hike any time this year. Miller’s position had changed

“The number one thing right now is the coronavirus, but there is other business we have to take care of,” Miller told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday. “We have to have better transit and transportation systems in Hillsborough County. If we miss this deadline, we have to wait two years or even more. We can’t wait on that.

By Wednesday afternoon’s vote, Miller’s position had become the exact opposite of what he said on Tuesday.

Attention now turns to tomorrow’s Pinellas County Commission meeting, at which a “transportation” update is to be given. The word “transportation” is often used by politicians when instead they mean transit. Specifically, corrupt transit projects.

This 2018 European Union study found that “mass transportation systems offer an effective way of accelerating the spread of infectious diseases within communities.”

The study was authored by the PANDHUB project, a term which stands for “Prevention and Management of High Threat Pathogen Incidents in Transport Hubs” and is a EU-funded project.

The combination of high population density and heavy use of transit are the two main reasons that NYC as of this morning accounts for over 25% of all coronavirus deaths in the US. Yet many politicians want to continue to densify, force people to use transit, and then tax them heavily in order to impose their transit ideology teachings on them.

As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish articles.

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