TAMPA, Fla. - During a workshop on Wednesday, the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners outlined their proposed plans for how to spend more than half a billion dollars collected from the transportation sales surtax approved by voters in November 2018 and later struck down in court.
The tax was invalidated by a Florida Supreme Court judge, who ruled it unconstitutional in February 2021. During its lifetime, the All for Transportation tax generated $569.8 million.
The money currently sits with the Florida Department of Revenue. According to a board document, the county's proposal includes disbursing the money as follows:
- $130 million: Repaving roads
- $124 million: Intersection safety
- $116 million: Congestion relief
- $66 million: New trails
- $57 million: Safe routes to schools and other pedestrian/bike safety measures
- $56 million: Repairing and replacing bridges
- $40 million: Repairing sidewalks
Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan said during the workshop that he wants county residents to see results right away.
"My office has always heard the most from our citizens about, and that is resurfacing and sidewalks," said Hagan.
The county went off-road a little too, pitching to spend $66 million on building new trails.
"I'm saying that's a luxury item," said Hillsborough Commissioner Gwen Myers. "We don't really need that. But everything else to me is public safety."
The state ordered Hillsborough County to green light and send a recommendation on potential transportation uses of the funds by March. Some said they hesitated to support all aspects of the plan, because they didn't want to appear supportive of the way the money was collected.
"It is a final order," said Hillsborough Commissioner Michael Owen. "It's similar to me of someone taking money out of my pocket and then law enforcement saying it's your money, but we're going to go ahead and let them spend it anyways."
County officials, though, made sure every area, and every commissioner's district, got at least one big ticket improvement to reduce traffic congestion. They suggested $10 million for the link between US 41 and US 301, $32 million for Big Bend Road and $10 million for Lithia Pinecrest Road.
"It would be important to me that each specific commissioner's interests are not highlighted as this being a group decision, because we're voting on illegally taxed dollars," said Hillsborough Commissioner Joshua Wostal.
The board document states that the "underlying framework" for the board's decisions will be the goals of improving safety, ensuring the current system is in good condition and finding ways to have a "direct and immediate" impact.
Hillsborough County said it needs $520 million for unfunded future congestion relief projects, according to the document.
Last November, voters decided against a second transportation tax measure.
The state legislature will ultimately decide on how the proceeds are spent. The funds are expected to be available as soon as July 1, pending the approval of state lawmakers and the governor.