Hillsborough County Commissioners won’t raise the county’s gas tax — at least not yet.
During a meeting Wednesday, the board voted to temporarily approve a 5 cent gas tax, which means the issue is still on the table but won’t go into effect.
The county already levies 6 cents allowable under state law, but has not adopted the 5 cent local option fuel tax. If adopted, the additional tax would create an estimated $20.6 million a year in additional county revenue for transportation projects.
Commissioners punted on the issues for a variety of reasons.
First, the issue requires a supermajority vote of the County Commission. As noted by Commissioner Pat Kemp, the votes just were not there.
If the issues had gone to a vote for approval, instead of temporary approval, it would have made it more difficult to bring back to a vote at a later time. The temporary approval allows the issue to come up again without too much bureaucratic hassle.
Second, some commissioners were concerned about timing. Hillsborough County residents are already paying a 1 percent sales surtax for transportation and transit enhancements in Hillsborough County. Several residents showed up at the meeting to lament they were already being taxed enough for transportation.
“This would bring [gas taxes to] 11 percent,” said Ellen Snelling of the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance. “The All For Transportation tax should be enough to pay for transportation needs.”
Commissioner Board Chair Les Miller agreed, noting he had received numerous emails opposing the proposed tax increase.
In addition to opposing more taxes in general, others lamented the tax would be regressive, meaning it would disproportionately affect low-income residents who could least afford to absorb the additional tax.
The city of Temple Terrace sent a letter opposing the gas tax, too.
Instead of taking a vote that seemed doomed to fail, Miller moved instead to approve the tax temporarily for it to come back again at a later date — preferable after the All For Transportation tax is decided in the Florida Supreme Court. If it’s upheld, the gas tax might not be necessary.
All but one Commissioner voted to go that route. Only Ken Hagan voted against it, noting that he has always been opposed to raising gas taxes.
Kemp, Miller, Kimberly Overman and Sandra Murman all said they were overall supportive of gas taxes because they represent a user fee.