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Joe Henderson: Hillsborough transit tax push will be on November ballot

For Hillsborough County voters, the choice on at least one ballot issue in November will be simple to decide: Are they willing to pay one more cent per dollar on their sales tax, or is being stuck in traffic every day something they enjoy?

Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer announced Wednesday afternoon that the All For Transportation push has gathered more than the required number of petition signatures to see if voters want to amend the county charter in a major move to address Hillsborough’s increasing traffic quagmire.

That’s something their county commissioners wouldn’t allow voters to do in 2016 when they declined to allow a similar push called Go Hillsborough on the ballot.

Why?

Because anti-tax people screamed and the commissioners caved.

This one is out of their hands, though.

The people behind this push have ranged from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, civic icon Frank Morsani, to just lots of everyday folks who helped gather, organize or sign petitions.

It seemed like a longshot when the petition drive was announced just a couple of months ago. But volunteers canvassed the area and got more than 50,000 valid signatures, comfortably more than was needed to get this on the ballot.

We’re kind of like the frog in the boiling pot in this county when it comes to transportation. It has gradually gotten much worse over the years as more people moved here and more cars fought for space on the roads. But people just put up with it because there really hasn’t been much of an alternative, until it dawned on enough people that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The anti-tax crowd will decry anything that brings a lot of money into government as a boondoggle before they ever get a chance to see the results. If approved, the 30-year tax is expected to generate $280 million in the first year alone.

That money will get divided among the transportation agency HART, plus the cities of Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace, and the county. The idea is to dramatically improve bus service, make needed road repairs, bicycle lanes, and so on.

There is no mention in the plans of a mass transit system that would include rail or something similar. That won’t stop opponents from screaming RAIL at the top of their nay-saying lungs.

They have been successful so far in stopping most attempts in the Bay area to address transportation through tax hikes, so I would imagine the All For Transportation folks know this is just the beginning.

They’ll have about three months to convince voters the need for major transportation upgrades can’t be solved with band-aids and toll roads. Every part of Hillsborough County has stories of traffic nightmares to share.

So, here we go again.

Opponents will be ready. All For Transporation says it will be ready.

Everybody makes their case, and then the voters choose.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

Andrew Gillum Andrew Gillum

Yep, the FBI did f*ck Andrew Gillum

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Michael Moline, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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