Taxpayers could fund transportation upgrades in Hillsborough

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Hillsborough County voters are one step closer to seeing a referendum on the 2016 ballot asking them to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation upgrades.

The proposed referendum is part of a plan selected to move forward by GO Hillsborough, a group of county-wide leaders created to solve the Bay area's transportation issues.

The group voted to bring the referendum plan to the Hillsborough County Commission, which would need to approve it before it made it to the ballot for voters to decide.

Commissioner Victor Crist voted for the referendum to move to a vote at County Commission.

"I want to alleviate the hour-and-a-half drive into work in the morning and the two-hour drive home. That is ridiculous and if we're going to attract employers here and attract quality employees, we've got to do better than that," said Crist.

Crist's colleague Sandy Murman was against bringing the referendum to a second vote. Instead, she has proposed her own road funding plan which would increase several other taxes and fees.

She says it would raise nearly the same amount of money. It is also likely to be discussed at a December commission meeting.

"Sales tax is not the best source to rely on. They say the same about the gas tax. No tax is gonna be completely reliable," said Murman.

GO Hillsborough says the sales tax increase would raise nearly $117-million per year, allowing projects to relieve congestion on major highways and intersection improvements. The plan also calls for more service to the HART bus system.

County Commission is likely to vote on the referendum sometime in December.

Voters seem to be split on whether a half-cent sales tax increase to improve roads is worth the investment.

Driver Adrian Mack worries the long-term benefit of construction would be overshadowed by the short-term delays it would add to traffic in the Tampa Bay area.

"It's always something, you know, being done on the roads and like I said it would eventually pay off, but during that time it's always congested. It's always road work," said Mack.