Hillsborough County Commissioners voted to delay a public hearing on a back-up plan to reaffirm the transportation sales tax voters approved last year until January 2021 to maintain focus on combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
The All For Transportation Surtax is being challenged in the Florida Supreme Court, and it’s unclear when a decision on its fate could come down.
In the meantime, the All For Transportation group had been working with county officials on a potential redo referendum to protect the future of transportation funding in Hillsborough County should Justices strike down the tax.
Voters approved the 1% sales tax last November, but Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White and resident Bob Emerson challenged the referendum language and are seeking to have it thrown out.
The plan had been to put another referendum on the ballot this year, but with the COVID-19 pandemic taking precedence, four commissioners agreed that now is not the time to take on that effort.
Commissioners Pat Kemp, Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith all voted against postponing a public hearing, instead favoring moving forward with plans for a 2020 referendum.
Under the approved postponement, a new referendum would not go before voters until 2022.
All for Transportation organizers are undeterred.
“Until this pandemic, Hillsborough County’s failing transportation system was also its most urgent public health crisis. We understand it’s imperative that Hillsborough County marshal all of its resources and energy in service of saving lives and in mitigating the effects of COVID-19,” founders Christina Barker and Tyler Hudson wrote in a statement following Wednesday’s vote.
“Hillsborough County will return from these uncertain times to face a familiar challenge: unsafe roads and inadequate public transit. The new reality of economic hardship many will face as a result of COVID-19 only strengthens our commitment to protecting the transportation solutions voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018. These solutions will be part of how we all recover and All for Transportation stands ready to continue the fight.”
The group noted, however, they remain confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the original voter-approved tax, negating the need for a second referendum altogether.