The biggest moment in Jacksonville politics in 2016 was the August passage of a referendum unlocking future local sales tax proceeds to address pension debt, provided collective bargaining closes at least one of the city’s current pension plans.
Considered to be an audacious, high-risk play when the initiative was formally launched early in 2016, former RPOF Chair and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry invested a great deal of local and statewide political capital to shepherd the measure from concept through to a 65 percent popular vote for the tax extension.
However, Curry’s August triumph may not be repeated ever again after Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session.
Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the current RPOF Chair, introduced a bill in the Florida House on Thursday that would ensure any future sales tax referendum bills would have to be on the general election ballot. The bills covered include transportation and indigent care sales surtax measures.
Ingoglia, a Hernando County Republican, had a similar bill in 2016; it passed the House 95 to 19, but died in committee in the Senate.
H.B. 139 stipulates also that all infrastructure sales taxes, such as the one Jacksonville voters opted to extend past its 2030 sunset date, would have to be approved by referendum.
Ingoglia, in a Friday conversation, stressed that the current bill had nothing to do with Jacksonville, but with bringing back a bill from the previous session that had “overwhelming bipartisan support” and backing from the Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities.
Over the last five years, Ingoglia estimates that a third of all taxation bills filed have been on a special election ballot, with half on the primary ballot.
This bill, Ingoglia sais, “forces local governments to put [taxation] questions on the general election ballot,” so that a simple majority of a small voting universe isn’t making those decisions for everyone.
Notable: in its initial conceptual phase, city of Jacksonville policy makers considered having the tax extension approved by a supermajority of the city’s pliant city council.
Also notable: one of the local debates in Jacksonville, ahead of the referendum passing, was about the political calculus used by the mayor’s office to put the referendum on the August ballot rather than the November version.
The August ballot inclusion was depicted as a better road toward voter education, so that the measure was not drowned out by the inevitable noise of the November election.
Ingoglia rejected such reasoning, saying that having “as many people as possible” decide taxation questions mattered more.
Ingoglia’s bill currently lacks a Senate companion measure.