City-only sales tax.
It doesn’t get the scrutiny or media coverage that some other statewide issues–from medical marijuana, Florida Forever and charter schools to Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and Stand Your Ground do–but it’s an issue with serious implications for several Florida cities. None more so than Tampa.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn and his Orlando counterpart Buddy Dyer have been the most prominent proponents–but Jacksonville, Miami and St. Petersburg are also major players. Basically the mayors all want the right to hold city-only–not just countywide–referenda. And, heretofore, the state legislature has treated their entreaties with disregard, if not disdain.
Buckhorn’s case is straightforward. The one glaring need for this city–as well as this region–is meaningful mass transit. It means quality of life for those of us who live and work here; it means staying competitive for those who recruit and market. A Riverwalk and Jeff Vinik will only get you so far.
It’s beyond obvious. It’s beyond a priority. Absent a city-only, sales-tax referendum, the non-Tampa parts of Hillsborough County can continue to, in effect, veto transit initiatives that pass within Tampa city limits. It happened in 2010. It would happen tomorrow. It is what it is, without belaboring the point.
This time Buckhorn and Dyer elicited encouragement from Gov. Rick Scott. The concept made it out of the Senate as an amendment to a transportation bill. But the House wouldn’t hear of it. It only heard Speaker Richard Corcoran’s mantra: “The House had zero interest in tax increases of any kind.”
Corcoran’s OutHouse is to the right of the Tea Party when it comes to taxes. For anything. It’s unconscionably ham-handed, ideologically expedient, counterproductive and, frankly, undemocratic.
Tampa, Orlando and the other major cities don’t just want to hold their own referenda addressing their own critical needs. They also want to make the case that self-determination isn’t some idealistic, stump-speech phrase that we only support in the abstract.