Joe Henderson: Commuters score a victory against Hillsborough traffic
Tampa traffic. (Image via Flickr)

The County Commission may have given traffic-clogged commuters here reason to hope.

We always should hesitate to declare anything related to transportation in Hillsborough County is a done deal, especially if it involves a tax. But let’s tip-toe to the edge of optimism and maybe utter a small “yay.” The County Commission may have given traffic-clogged commuters here reason to hope.

On Wednesday, Commissioners formally approved spending allocations for the one-cent sales tax voters approved last November. The tax referendum is known as All For Transportation. Supporters argued it was necessary to deal with Hillsborough’s stifling congestion.

The referendum, approved by 57 percent of voters, spelled out specific projects that would be paid for by the tax. Commissioner Stacy White sued, arguing only elected officials can make those decisions. A judge agreed but said the tax was legal.

Those elected officials did what White demanded. They made a decision. The Board voted 6-1 to fund the projects exactly as they were spelled out in the referendum. Two Republicans – Ken Hagan and Sandra Murman – sided with the four Democrats on the Board.

White, who has appealed for the state Supreme Court to throw the tax out completely, was the lone vote in opposition. I’ll get back to him in a minute.

Hagan and Murman got it right. Neither likes the tax but they went with what voters wanted.

What a concept. Do you think the whole “will of the people” thing will catch on?

Wednesday’s action allows the appropriate county governing bodies to move ahead with some projects, but that could be risky.

The Supreme Court won’t hear White’s appeal until at least next February, and it could be March or April before its ruling – if then. That means several more months of limbo.

A conservative Court could side with White.

What then?

And don’t forget, the GOP-dominated Florida House invited itself to the party. General counsel Adam S. Tanenbaum filed an amicus brief on Sept. 3 supporting White and another litigant. It declared the state Constitution “gives the Legislature exclusive control over the levy of non-ad valorem taxes…”

The Legislature’s aim seems to be keeping taxes as low as possible, and it doesn’t matter if a creaking transportation system can’t keep up with growth. I guess that’s the price we pay for sunshine.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee know what a morning commute is like here, because, well, they know everything.

Lawmakers brag that low taxes are a reason businesses want to come to Florida. If leaders of those businesses take a close look at the state’s feeble transportation system, they might go elsewhere. The ultimate cost will be a blow to the state’s economy that may take decades to recover.

But hey, commuters got a victory Wednesday, and that’s always a reason to celebrate.

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.


  • David Hanson

    September 19, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Actually it was the will of Vinik and the other multimillionaires in Tampa. The people were bamboozled by a lying ad campaign and a corrupt fake news newspaper. Meanwhile residential developments are growing like weeds in southern Hillsborough County. Where is the money for new roads and expanded roads for those people to drive on? We already have bad traffic down here.

  • Jerry Lane

    September 19, 2019 at 8:37 am

    The local transportation tax has nothing to do with funding interstates that are funded with state and federal gas taxes. It is the State who creates the laws, rules and procedures that provides counties the ability to levy local sales taxes and of course they have a vested interest to ensure the rule of law is followed. Henderson is confused….perhaps he needs a remedial Civics lesson. Henderson and his media allies knew about the potential legal issues with the All for Transportation $16 Billion transit tax last year but “chose” to ignore the issue. Good bet that #HypocriteHenderson would be first in line demanding the rule of law be followed and screaming for lawsuits and courts to take action if it was an issue he opposed.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    September 19, 2019 at 9:37 am

    As usual you’re parroting the fraudulent tax supporters. The Commission approved any and all sprawl, and plans to pillage the taxpayers for fixed rail which bleeds the budget to death. Tyler Hudson admitted the fraud in his text to me. Just lovely. Are you on the payroll too?

  • George Niemann

    September 19, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Joe says, “Hagan and Murman got it right”. Got it right??? Just like Joe, they are political grifters. So, Ken and Sandy, welcome to Joe’s Alternate Reality Club. Keep the slick mantra going at all costs…”Even if the people didn’t really know what they were voting for, we’ll tell them that they have a will that must be honored!!”

  • Steve Emerson

    September 19, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    So wealthy folks with vast real estate holdings spend money regular citizens can’t match creating a marketing campaign that has 65% of the county paying for Tampa City residents trains and additional busses with no new road construction for where the majority of the taxpayers live? Only the one percent could make that happen. What a pile of BS.

Comments are closed.


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