Sales tax for 'Go Hillsborough' voted down by commissioners

- Hillsborough County Commissioners voted against putting the 'Go Hillsborough' sales tax referendum on the November 8 ballot.

After a four-hour meeting, which included three hours of public comment, the board ultimately rejected two plans, 3 to 4.

The first was a sales tax with a 30-year referendum, and the second was a 20-year referendum. Commissioners' votes were the same for both.

If it had passed, the plan would have brought a half-cent per dollar sales tax increase. The extra $117 million a year would fund road repairs, safety measures, new transit options and routes aimed at alleviating Hillsborough County's chronic congestion.

Before the vote, the board got an earful from more than 60 people. There was a 50-50 split between those for and against the plan.

"Years ago when I drove to work, it took about 30 minutes to get to work," said Gerald White. "Now, it takes an hour to get to work."

White gave Go Hillsborough the green light.

But, if you ask Len Mead, "There's just no need," he said. "Make everybody happy, don't get voted out of office, don't give us a tax hike. Just re-allocate what you have and don't bother the voters."

The first to speak was Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

"We will continue to lose opportunities for jobs and relocations until we address this problem," Buckhorn said. "I hear it every time I make a pitch to a potential corporate relocation, in what is otherwise an exemplary report card, that this community falls short on transportation."

Buckhorn is all for the plan if it spans 30 years and no less. 

"If anyone gets up here tonight and tells you that the residents of unincorporated Hillsborough County are paying for a rail system, they are lying," Buckhorn said.

But his comments fired up at least one voter, anxious for his turn. A man in the crowd yelled "Boo!"  Commissioner Les Miller told him he'd be removed if he did not remain quiet until public comment.

Once it came time for them to speak, dozens upon dozens waited in line for their turn.

"Give us our right to decide what we the people think is best," one woman said in favor.

"Stop misleading us. We are all paying for rail," a man said, opposed to the plan.

"I do not want my grandchildren strapped with a tax that they are not old enough to vote on, but will be paying on the majority of their adult life," said another woman against the plan.

Though the plan was rejected, the commission made one final vote -- to continue the discussion on the transportation plan. It passed unanimously.

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