Judge rules penny sales tax invalidated by Florida Supreme Court must be used on Hillsborough transportation

A Tampa judge ruled the penny sales tax that was invalidated by Florida's Supreme Court last year must be spent on transportation in Hillsborough County. 

"I’m just so glad we're making progress," said Hillsborough County Commission Chair, Kimberly Overman.

Fifty-seven percent of voters approved the Hillsborough County Transportation tax in 2018. The State Supreme Court pumped the brakes last February, ruling the penny tax was unconstitutional, saying the commission should control the funding allocation, so the $562 million already collected has just been sitting there.

"Having to deal with this for almost four years with no decision, and no movement, and no ability to actually even plan for whether or not we could spend it when voters asked us to has been enormously frustrating," Overman said.

Last week, a final judgement was issued in the saga.

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Attorney Ron Weaver said the Tampa Judge ruled the money must be spent on transportation in Hillsborough County, handing the fate of those funds over to the state legislature.

"By September 1, the joint Legislative Budget Commission will need to decide the destination for these moneys already collected," he explained.

The 14-person Commission will make recommendations to the Florida Department of Revenue, which will submit a plan to distribute the money through a budget amendment, finally using the tax dollars for its intended purpose.

"I’m hopeful that they'll put it back into the buckets that not only the citizens wanted, but the Hillsborough County Commission and City of Tampa certainly endorse as well," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said.

Local leaders said this penny tax money is desperately needed to maintain and invest in the county’s infrastructure. 

"If they were to go through our current project lists on all of our transportations and just use the priority list that we have in place right now, that would be in line with what the transportation needs are of Hillsborough County," Overman said.

A new one percent tax for Hillsborough County transportation will be on the ballot this November for voters to decide on. This time around, commissioners spell out where the money generated by the 30-year-tax will go.