Commissioner sues to remove Hillsborough transportation tax

People in Hillsborough County are already paying a new transportation tax, but a county commissioner wants to know if the tax is even legal.

Commissioner Stacy White, District 4, is suing to get the tax - which voters approved last fall - thrown out.

The arguments dragged on for six hours Friday in Hillsborough County civil court.

County Commissioner Stacy White has said it’s not.

The one-cent transportation sales tax passed with 57% approval last November. The proceeds from the tax increase are intended to address roads and other transportation concerns in the county.

White’s side argues it takes constitutional powers from commissioners and transfers that to the Independent Oversight Commission (IOC), which was appointed to decide exactly the tax revenue is spent.

In court Friday, Commissioner White’s lawyer went all the way back to the phrasing of the referendum on voter ballots.

“It’s probably the most egregious marketing tool that I’ve seen in the ballot summary. It really is. I mean, they did a study to figure out what words to use to get the votes,” said attorney Chris Altenbernd.

On the other side, representatives from the group All for Transportation disagree.

“We think it was a very fair, clear, easy to understand ballot summary. It was responsive to what the voters wanted, and I think that’s why it was overwhelmingly approved. It was a very balanced plan where everyone stood to benefit,” said Tyler Hudson.

All for Transportation is also arguing White alone cannot sue the county. He needs to have the entire council join him and. without a commission vote, it’s a violation of the county charter.

“It’s not just the people that are on our side in this, it’s the law as well. And I think we made some very strong arguments and look forward to the judge’s decision,” Hudson said.

Meanwhile, the revenue from this tax has been accumulating since Jan. 1. Right now, it’s sitting in a trust, but if the amendment is reversed, it’s unknown what will happen to the money.

The judge is expected to make a decision in the next two weeks.