'Rail' back in sales tax language
February 27, 2010
Responding to criticism from county commissioners, transit officials have revised the language of a proposed tax referendum they want on November's ballot.
Backers had removed the word "rail" from the proposed language commissioners considered at a Thursday workshop. Instead, the wording said the 1-cent sales tax increase would fund a "rapid transit system and enhanced bus service," leading some commissioners to accuse referendum backers of trying to obscure how much money would be spent on rail.
Friday, they put "rail" back.
"We were looking for clarity so when the public votes, they can understand what we are trying to do, what our vision is," said David Armijo, chief executive officer of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.
Armijo said HART officials met with representatives from the county and the city of Tampa to hash out the new language.
"This is a direct response to the commissioners' questions," he said. "Whether they like it or don't like it, it gives us something to talk about."
County commissioners are scheduled to take up the issue of the ballot language and possible referendum at their regular meeting Wednesday.
The proposed language now reads:
"Shall transportation improvements throughout Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Plant City, including local rail, an expanded bus system of more than 560 buses for express, local and neighborhood service, improving roads, and other transportation projects be funded by levying a one percent transportation sale surtax from January 1, 2001 until repealed, deposited into a dedicated trust fund, and all spending reviewed by an independent oversight committee of citizens and experts?(sic)"
Voters would then be asked whether they are for or against the 1-cent sales tax increase.
Transit projects are supposed to receive 75 percent of the tax, with rail and bus improvements splitting that. The rest would go toward road improvements.
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