Another Post on Traffic Issues

Yes, I am beginning to sound like I am obsessed with traffic. In reality, I’m not that obsessed. My ‘issue’ is that I can understand how our leaders can be so short-sighted on this matter.

This spring, the Florida legislature passed a bill that would have allowed local governments to ask the voters for permission to add a $2 per day surcharge for rental cars. Governor Jeb Bush vetoed the bill, saying, in part, that because tourists are the ones who predominently rent cars, the surcharge is essentially “taxation without representation.”

Ha! Thank you, Grover Norquist.

Others have pointed out that tourists pay sales and use taxes, hotel bed taxes, gasoline taxes, and many more fees and taxes — including an existing $2 surcharge on rental cars. All of these were passed without their consent, because they are not electors here in Florida.

I hate it when I agree with a St. Petersburg Times editorial, but they have a valid point.

Anyone who thinks Florida couldn’t use more money for transportation must have use of their own airplane and a driver (like, say, the governor). This state remains billions of dollars short, even with last year’s significant investment. Millions of tourists contribute to the congestion, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t pay a bit more to help ease a situation they help create.

Well aware of the governor’s aversion to justifiable tax increases, the bill’s supporters made the rental car surcharge a county-by-county decision and required voters to approve it. The surcharge could have raised more than $32-million a year in Orange County, $12-million in Hillsborough County and $3-million in Pinellas. It was promoted by Republicans from traffic-choked Central Florida, hardly a bastion of tax-and-spend liberals, and received broad bipartisan support.

Apparently, the Broward County Commission has the cojones to do something – despite a historic proclivity for the voters there to reject a tax increase.

New passenger rail service. Downtown streetcars. Express shuttles to Miami and Boca Raton. Shorter waits for buses. Synchronized streetlights.

Broward County voters will be asked in November if they want to raise the sales tax by a penny to expand mass transit and ease traffic congestion over the next 25 years.

County commissioners had been reluctant for months to approve the referendum, but did so Tuesday amid heavy lobbying by a coalition of business and union leaders. Their close 5-4 vote could foretell a tough campaign with proponents facing charges that not enough work has gone into the plans and that hiking the sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents is too much.

Voters have twice rejected a sales tax increase in Broward over the past 25 years.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce tried to get the Hillsborough County Commission to do the same thing a few years ago, to no avail. It would seem that our leaders are scared to ask the voters for permission to raise taxes for roads – out of fear they would not be re-elected or elected to higher office.

Finally, I would like to add my thoughts to those of Tampa Rail, In Theory, and Sticks of Fire blogs on a recent story from Bay News 9. Russ Handler asked the question: Would a mass transit rail system benefit the Bay area?

I am among the many who say: Yes! Yes! Yes!

I have been a tourist in many cities with great transit systems- from the T in Boston to the New York subways to Washington’s Metro – and have loved the abiliy to get around without a car. I know I would use it here in Tampa, especially to go see USF Bulls football games!

Of course, I say this despite the fact that Atlanta area counties have a sales tax for MARTA and will still have a 23-lane-wide interstate running through their community.

Oh well, maybe we can get some new leaders on the County Commission. (Or from this story – maybe not.)

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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One Response to Another Post on Traffic Issues

  1. Bob says:

    The SB 1350 veto had more to do with Presidential aspirationd than any lobbying by Norquist. Bottom line, Jeb didn’t want a tax increase on his record, which indicates he has plans to run again (VP in 2008, President 8 years later?)

    The rental car surcharge bill passed by a landslide in a very conservative House and Senate. Furthermore, it would have required a vote by local referendum.

    I worked very hard on this bill, as did many others. It is so disappointing to see such an important bill fall short because of one man’s ambition.

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