Hillsborough County Referendum No. 2 on transportation is generally good for everyone. If approved, the one cent sales tax increase will last for 30 years and help improve our traffic problems now and into the future. We can expect less congestion, better flowing intersections, bus and mass transit solutions for moving people into downtown, West Shore, TIA, USF and MacDill, along with better street, sidewalk and lighting maintenance.
Voters did not pass a similar plan in 2010 but Referendum 2 is well balanced. It intends to solve numerous transportation issues and is being presented to voters again because of their increased frustration with traffic.
Adding $300 million annually, the fund will focus attention on projects that have been shelved due to lack of money. HART will ultimately receive more than three times what is normally allocated from property taxes. This tax will raise about $9 billion over it’s 30 year life. Infrastructure demands such as road resurfacing, bridge replacement, sidewalks, improved street lighting and curbs could suddenly advance much more quickly in start dates. Expanded bus routes can immediately benefit Hillsborough residents by taking many daily commuters off the roads. Thousands more will make direct route bus connections between employment centers like downtown, West Shore, TIA, USF and MacDill. The new funds for HART may pull matching state and federal dollars into the equation providing Hillsborough County with an ease in implementing transit growth goals well into the future.
An independent oversight committee will methodically review expenditures ensuring the money is spent as intended. The committee will include appointees from Hillsborough County, the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City and HART. In addition, experts appointed by the clerk, property appraiser and tax collector will play an important role. The 13-member board will also include an attorney along with professionals in land use, transportation, real estate and accounting. The board will create an annual report that certifies the taxes were appropriately spent.
Hillsborough County Referendum No. 2 is one of two countywide tax referendums on the November ballot; the other referendum seeks a half cent sales tax increase for school improvements, maintenance and construction. If both referendums pass, Hillsborough’s state sales tax will become 8.5 cents, the highest in the state. However, about 20% of this tax will be paid by visitors. This is a well thought out plan to use the tax money wisely and it benefits most of the residents, if not all.
No matter where they reside in the county, most residents will see improvements in our transportation systems. The flexibility Referendum 2 provides to each government enables them to address specific needs independently while moving forward with a universal plan. The oversight board keeps the spending on-track and the participants fully accountable. This plan is thoughtful in it’s approach to new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, last mile mass transit solutions, high speed rail, and more.
Vote Yes for Hillsborough County Referendum No. 2