Earlier this month, I blogged about the different factors that impacted the Greenlight Pinellas voter referendum. Well, a recent poll has shown that regardless of whether or not light rail was in the equation, many voters simply did not want to be taxed…not even by another penny. That goes into the final point that I made in my last post, which was the overall state of the economy and taxation.
Although the economy in general has improved since the 2008/09 recession, the truth is, the recovery hasn’t been as widespread and as robust as many had hoped. Like the Great Depression of 1929 through the 30s, economic recovery took not just years, it took decades for the world to recover from it. The most recent recession will likely take at least a couple of decades before significant economic recovery can really be felt.
The main point of the matter, is that economic recovery really hasn’t been felt here in Florida, where you have so much riding on low wage, service-driven industries; such as food service, retail, and hospitality. So many job offerings here in Florida pay at or near minimum wage, and are only part time positions. That’s not enough to keep a family with children afloat these days, and many people throughout the state have been struggling. In many instances from what I’ve heard, finding full time work is tough…unless you happen to work in certain healthcare, business, or manufacturing areas, or land a full time position at one of many call centers throughout the state,
With that said, because economic recovery hasn’t been as robust and widespread as many have hoped, rather it’s been quite a slow and painful process really, the anti-tax sentiments from 2010 continue to linger on here in Florida, and the failure of not only Greenlight Pinellas, but referendums in Polk, Hernando, and Alachua counties, have clearly shown that voters are not willing to tax themselves any further when the overall state of the economy is still largely in limbo. Add to that varying personal situations, like job security and home foreclosures. I can bet that many families that have been sitting on rocky soil wound up voting against the referendums, fearing that additional taxes would further ruin their livelihood.
A recent poll showed that 90% of respondents (registered voters in Pinellas) went against Greenlight Pinellas because of the penny sales tax increase. The poll also showed that many respondents would still vote against the measure even if light rail wasn’t in the equation. On top of that, many Pinellas voters simply did not understand the proposed “tax swap” to its fullest extent, and many even had negative perceptions of the component. Some comments I heard throughout social media and the newspapers even equated Greenlight Pinellas to double taxation, because many voters felt that the existing property tax could be brought back at any time. The state legislature is the only body that can approve abolishing county property taxes.
So despite sentiments against light rail in Tampa Bay, light rail didn’t kill off Greenlight, it was the anti-tax sentiment that did. And as long as that sentiment continues to roll on, which likely will for as long as the overall economy remains in limbo; Hillsborough County will need to work five times as hard to make sure that voters are convinced that building better public transportation will ease traffic congestion and create a better transportation environment for all of Tampa Bay. At the end of the day, despite the situation at hand, we cannot allow the 2016 referendum attempt by Hillsborough go down the same way that previous referendum attempts have, especially now that No Tax For Tracks is a household name here in the Tampa Bay Area.
Until next time, take care, and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!