After Florida Supreme Court's rejection of Hillsborough transportation tax, what happens next?

Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White claimed victory yesterday in the fight against the county’s penny sales tax for transportation, which voters approved in 2018.

"Despite those that repeatedly attacked me, I am delighted with the ruling," White said.

Thursday morning, the state’s highest court struck down the Hillsborough County Transportation Tax.

The problem, the court said, is that the charter amendment included restrictions on how revenue from the tax could be spent. It found that those restrictions are unconstitutional -- and therefore, that the tax is invalid.

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Despite the win, White says there’s still more decision-making to be done by the state Supreme Court.

"I think the Supreme Court is going to make a ruling on that class-action lawsuit," White said.

A separate class-action civil lawsuit, filed in 2019 by Hillsborough county residents is still before the court. It seeks to overturn the tax, force the county to stop collecting it -- and to return the funds already collected from taxpayers.

"The people who paid into this have a right to receive their money back," White said. 

The county began collecting the tax in January 2019, but hasn’t spent it, pending the lawsuits.

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The Supreme Court did not address what should happen to the money, but at some point will.

In a statement Friday, the Florida Department of Revenue said that until the Florida Supreme Court issues a mandate, what will happen regarding those monies remains unclear.

"All For Transportation," the group behind the tax, is urging commissioners to put it back on the ballot. 

"That money belongs to the community, and it needs to be put in service of fixing the community's demand for a better, safer, more equitable transportation system," said Tyler Hudson, the group’s co-chair.