Lots of things have happened with Go Hillsborough since my last post. I first want to point out that my original plan to continue the piece-by-piece blog post series, as I was doing during the first set of public outreach workshops, just wasn’t going to work out. This was for several reasons; but particularly due to some of the discouraging news that came out in recent months that the Go Hillsborough recommended proposal was flawed. Because of this, I almost did not even write this post, but I felt at the same time that I had to provide my readers with some sort of an update to the process. So here it is…from the recommendation…to where we are now…and where we may be headed…
In June of 2015, Go Hillsborough consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff presented a recommended proposal to the Hillsborough Transportation for Economic Development Policy Leadership Group that would be built off of a half-cent sales tax referendum. This referendum would allow a portion of money to be allocated into repairing and improving existing roads, as well as new local road projects, transit expansion and improvements, and pedestrian/bike-oriented projects like Complete Streets.
The proposal, while supported by some, isn’t quite the best plan out there because it allocates more money towards roads rather than transit. However, it isn’t to worst proposal either because this could have easily turned out to have been an all roads proposal. Additionally, any proposal to increase gas taxes would have likely had funds going towards roads only, which isn’t balanced at all.
Instead of boring residents with tons of bullet points with long-winded explanations, transit advocacy group Connect Tampa Bay came up with this neat graphic that clearly illustrates where funds would be allocated to.
I’ll discuss some of these elements in greater detail in a follow-up post.
While the prospect of a full-cent sales tax continues to be dead-on-arrival for many, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill wants to make sure that residents know what projects a half-cent will fund versus a full-cent. While a full-cent proposal will no doubt allow more projects to be funded within 10 years, the chances of such a referendum passing is still pretty poor. In my opinion; a full-cent sales tax referendum will likely fail at an even worse margin than that of Greenlight Pinellas – which failed at a margin of 62/38%. I’m willing to bet in fact, that a full-cent referendum, if held today, would fail at around a 70/30% margin. A half-cent proposal on the other hand, would have a better chance at passing…though the vote might be real close.
Is the recommended Go Hillsborough path good? Not really. But can it be improved? Definitely.
Right now, there are meetings being held throughout the county that are presenting which of the options (full-cent versus half-cent) would be better for residents. I strongly encourage you to attend a meeting before it’s too late. Unlike the previous series of meetings that were held primarily during the evening, these meetings are split between morning and evening sessions to allow a wider influx of residents to attend and voice their opinions. Please see my meetings post, which will be updated every Friday through October, for information regarding meetings for the upcoming week. For a full meeting schedule, and to RSVP (which is not required, but suggested), please visit the Go Hillsborough website.
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