Jacksonville doubles gas tax to close infrastructure gap

gas pump supply (Large)
The money will fund the so-called "Jobs for Jax" package of infrastructure needs and wants.

Sealing a legacy play for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, the City Council approved legislation Wednesday raising the gas tax to 12 cents a gallon for the next 30 years starting at the end of 2021.

The vote was 14-5.

The money will fund the “Jobs for Jax” package of infrastructure needs and wants and will allow the city some breathing room so it can fund septic conversion projects, starting with $100 million to be programmed in the next two budgets, as passed in a separate bill Wednesday.

“The art of great legislation is compromise, and they’ve done a great job,” enthused Council President Tommy Hazouri, a co-introducer of the bill, noting the dialogue with Curry’s staff that brought along skeptical members, some of whom flipped to support the bill in the 11th hour.

“It’s legendary, for this administration and this Council,” Hazouri added.

Critics have grumbled, including claims this is a tax-and-spend “slush fund” for establishment mayoral candidate Daniel Davis. But the proposal is in the tradition of former Mayor John Delaney‘s Better Jacksonville Plan, an ameliorating shopping list from a Mayor who this week proclaimed that he was in “political sunset.” Indeed, a co-sponsor of the bill, Democrat Garrett Dennis, once was a fierce opponent of the current Mayor.

Times have changed and alliances have shifted. The most consistent anti-tax arguments came from conservative Republicans.

The tax will directly fund renovations to the Skyway system ($247 million), development of the Emerald Trail of downtown hiking and biking paths ($132 million, money already moved from the Skyway funding), and $250 million for projects related to small and emerging businesses.

However, an amendment from Republican Council member Randy DeFoor that sought to strike the funding for the Skyway and the Ultimate Urban Circulator (an autonomous vehicle program that has received federal and state funding already) was ultimately the big discussion point before failing.

JTA CEO Nat Ford stressed the city is on the hook for the aging system, including the superannuated cars, and the federal government leaves open the right to clawback as much as $100 million (the total grant money) from the city, Ford said. He also noted the Ultimate Urban Circulator already received state and federal support, contingent on the expectations of match money and follow-through on projects.

The Council considered other amendments, voting down a proposal to make the projects pay-go and remove bonding, and rejecting a proposal to block JTA from receiving gas tax funds.

Some amendments did make the cut. An accountability dashboard will be added to the city website to allow at-home tracking of the project list and its fulfillment. Another amendment was added to ensure compliance with state ethics laws, in case that was ever in question.

Curry, who spent much of his first term winning big votes unanimously, has gotten better at winning ugly of late, out of necessity.

After second-term setbacks on JEA privatization and the Lot J proposal, the dialogue has reopened, and for his final two years as Mayor, he can expect Council Presidents with whom he works well, and ample resources for capital budgets that may, at last, address the broken promises of consolidation.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


2 comments

  • John

    May 27, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    If 100% of the gas tax is used for roads it can be justified. If the revenue is shared then the voters need to pass a referendum repealing it and banning any future increases for 30 years. These taxes are tough on working people. JAX is a big city and having a car is a necessity. There also has to be equal taxation under the law , so the power company needs to increase the tax on electric charging so one segment is not getting a untaxed free use of the roadways.

  • Johny Reb

    June 6, 2021 at 7:03 am

    Ninety nine percent of the people will not use either the Skyway or Emerald Trail. Total waste of tax dollars. And now more money will be spent on the Jaguars, it will never end. In a few years five to six hundred million will be needed for stadium upgrades, they have already said that. The Jaguars do not bring in the money they cost. A family of four cannot afford to go to the games.. We need to cut the Jaguars loose and let them go. like many cities have done with their NFL teams. They are just not worth the costs. The hundreds of millions of tax dollars could be used to help the majority of the people. Who cares about overpaid babies anyway.

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