Budget conference: House eyes road projects, settlements, Hillsborough sales tax cut for defunct surtax
Hillsborough County expands its evacuation orders.

About $570M will be used for Hillsborough County road projects, settle litigation and reduce the sales tax for a short time.

More than half a billion dollars from a defunct surtax could be used to pay for road projects in Hillsborough County, reduce sales taxes for a short time and pay for settlement costs for plaintiffs who filed suit against the surtax.

Under a budget proposal offered by the House on Monday, of the $570 million in revenues and interest accrued during the two years the tax was in effect, 45% would be used by the Florida Department of Transportation on Hillsborough County road projects, 30% would go to help settle cases brought by plaintiffs who paid the tax while it was in effect, and 25% would be used to cut the sales tax in the county for a short period of time.

Hillsborough County voters approved a 1% sales surtax in 2018, with the revenues to be used for transportation, which took effect in 2019. But the tax was challenged and in 2021 the Florida Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional because the charter amendment referendum restricted how the county commission could spend the funds, contradicting state law.

Voters spurned a similar referendum in 2022, as inflation skyrocketed and pushed prices higher.

The $570 million ended up with the Department of Revenue, which has held the funds since 2021. In 2022 a lower court Judge ruled the money had to be spent on Hillsborough County transportation projects, but lawmakers haven’t reached an agreement on how to spend the money.

The offer from the House is part of HB 5003, the implementing bill for the state budget, which guides how the money can be spent for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

It’s part of the final negotiations between the House and Senate over the budget, which must be completed by Tuesday for lawmakers to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the constitution before they can vote on the budget and end the Regular Session on its scheduled Friday end date.

Gray Rohrer


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