Ross Spano says Hillsborough transit tax plan should be no go

Ross Spano AG

Ross Spano left no doubt how he feels about the Hillsborough transportation tax referendum that will be on the ballot in November.

In a commentary on his website, he urged voters to defeat the one-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase advanced by the group All For Transportation.

Spano, a Republican, is running for the CD-15 seat being vacated by Dennis Ross, who is retiring. The district covers parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties and is considered a likely Republican win in November.

Spano has served in the Florida House since 2012 and is endorsed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

After leading in early polls, he is running second to Neil Combee in the CD 15 race by 6 points, according to the latest St. Pete Polls projection.

The declined roughly coincided with what Spano’s camp called “a mild cardiac event” about a month ago that took him off the campaign trail for a time.

Hillsborough traffic congestion has become a major campaign issue on both sides of the debate. Recent attempts to address the problem with tax increases have either failed at the ballot box or didn’t even get that far. In 2016, the county commission refused to allow a proposed referendum called Go Hillsborough on the ballot.

Spano, who grew up in Brandon, said in his commentary that he is aware of the challenges in dealing with the impact of this explosive growth, particularly on our roadways. But a new tax won’t solve that problem.”

Spano maintains the tax can’t be used to build roads in the eastern and southern parts of the county, and adds, “What the referendum will do is take billions of dollars out of your wallet, to fund transit projects that benefit the few at the expense of the many. Meanwhile, transit ridership is declining nationwide, and disruptive new private sector technology is making traditional transit obsolete.”

What Spano’s commentary does not do is offer alternative solutions to the transportation quagmire being created by the county’s unrelenting growth. And since much of this district now is in Hillsborough County, that might be interesting for voters to know.

I mention all this because Spano’s position on this referendum likely will become a major issue in November if — big if — he survives Tuesday’s primary. That would be especially true if Democrat Andrew Learned wins his primary race against Kristin Carlson.

Learned has been outspoken during the primary campaign about the need for significant transportation upgrades.

Keeping taxes low is always a key GOP talking point, but as the county grows and the roadways can’t keep up with the number of cars, something has to give.

It would have been interesting to see how Spano would propose to solve this issue, beyond the vague “disruptive new private sector technology” reference.

Otherwise, it just sounded like more of the “keep your hands out of my pocket” mantra GOP lawmakers have pushed for years in Florida.

Joe Henderson

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.


  • Edward Wosleger

    August 22, 2018 at 9:17 am

    If you live in the Brandon area Lithia Pinecrest 640s towards 39, you know what the roads are like. Come down to my neighborhood
    in the AM or early PM, need wider roads- you bet your sweet little vote we do. It can take 20-30 minutes to go a MILE. These voters need wider roads. Why the heck you do not fix the roads when you build houses. I smell graft.

  • Jim Davison DO

    August 22, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Joe you know there is another revenue plan out there that actually is better and cheaper and produces as much transit ridership as the petition plan does. You just can’t bring your self to admitted it. That’s ok we will be going all over the county showing the people a comparison between the “two”. We are not going to hide.

    • Alan Petrillo

      August 22, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Link? If you have a better idea then please share it.

    • Robert Jacobs

      August 24, 2018 at 8:01 am

      How much ridership does this other plan produce? How much does the referendum? How is it better?

  • Sharon Calvert

    August 22, 2018 at 10:24 am

    Ole Joe hasn’t found a transit tax hike he doesn’t support no matter how deceptive or reckless they may be. What They Say, What They Do How about a real debate Joe! Ooops – forgot – the special interests bought and paid for media megaphone who bought and paid getting this transit tax hike on the ballot won’t allow it #MediaBias

  • Jerry Lane

    August 22, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Joe is consistent – he keeps supporting unnecessary transit tax hike boondoggles, has nothing new to say and does not even attempt to consider anything else.


    August 22, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Instead of attacking readers and voters with vague accusations, how about sharing all the specific reasons why the voters should TRUST many billions of dollars in the hands of slick politicians, developers, and public relations experts.

    Be sure to include all the wonderful accomplishments of this clique that have led to the present situation. Real facts beat fancy promises every time. But you don’t have them, do you?

  • Tim Curtis

    August 22, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Joe is Tampa’s equivalent of Omarosa. He’s probe to fabrication and he’s completely out of touch with reality. He’s willing to carry the water for the richest of Tampa’s highbrows at the expense of the poorest. Joe will lie to you about the 100% increase in the county tax rate.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    August 22, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Owner Sternberg admitted at the presser that they want the money for rail to the stadium. “Cars are so five years ago.” He’s on UTube saying it. Of course the tax pushers leave out such pertinent facts. Rail costs $220 million a mile (see Anti-Planner) That will eat up all of the money and more. It’s a disgrace that the Tampa Bay Times is bought and sold by Vinik and Co. who are pushing the tax for the stadium, along with Perpetual Commissioner Ken Hagan (since 2003). They all deserve to be run out of town on a rail.

    • Alan Petrillo

      August 23, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      I have to question that $220M/mile figure. The most expensive part of the proposed Greenlight Pinellas system would have cost $71M/mile.

      While you’re about costs, you might want to have a look at what interstate quality highway costs, both to build and to operate.

  • Alan Petrillo

    August 23, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Keep in mind, 54% of that funding will go towards roads and other car related infrastructure, so if you like good roads to drive your cars on then you should like this issue. It’s unfortunate that transit skeptics will focus on the 46% that will go to improving our woefully underfunded transit system and forget about the 54% that will go to pay for the roads we will use every day.

  • Jack Williams

    August 23, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    The main issue is that transit doesn’t pay for itself, neither do roads. Next, is why worry about transit since self driving cars are coming soon. If that is true, why worry about expanding roads and highways? Self driving cars can drive closer together so no new lanes will be needed right? Self driving cars also means self driving buses that makes transit cheaper to operate that means more coverage for the same costs or the same coverage but more than twice the frequencies.

    That also means that over time, roads should be cheaper since either the self driving vehicles will be gas powered or all vehicles will be taxed based on how far they are driven. Just think, $0.10 to go to .25 miles coming soon too.

  • Jim Davison

    August 24, 2018 at 11:11 am

    The alternative plan that doesn’t raise taxes like the 1 cent plan does is similar to scenario 5 in transit ridership but more like scenario 8 of the MPO LRTP in congestion relief. The 1 cent plan has slightly more transit ridership, but much more road congestion similar to the congestion of scenario 5. If this isn’ t true then the AFT should jump at the chance to debate is and prove me wrong . The alternative plan just has the ability for more road capacity improvements with greater reduction in congestion, CO2 emissions and health consequences. I will debate this with anyone anytime. Just be sure to bring yours statistics. I use the MOOs own numbers. Meet me at the MPO or Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Committe meetings

Comments are closed.


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