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Florida Supreme Court Hears ‘All For Transportation’ Arguments

Attorney Chris Altenbernd
Attorney Chris Altenbernd, who represents tax opponents, addresses the Florida Supreme Court. THE FLORIDA CHANNEL

Florida’s Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on whether to uphold a voter-approved sales tax to fund transportation projects in Hillsborough County.

The five justices on the high court will now try to answer this question: who decides how to spend local sales tax money? 

The 2018 charter amendment, supported by the group All For Transportation, included a formula for splitting revenue among the county, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority or HART, and cities. A circuit judge struck down that formula last year, but county commissioners later approved their own version.  

RELATED: Fate of Hillsborough transportation tax is in judge's hands.

"It makes sense that if the people want to come forward and put on the ballot a surtax, they're going to have a say in what the money is going to be spent on,” said attorney George LeMieux, who represents the county.  

Opponents argue the charter amendment that created the tax violates state law and the Florida Constitution by taking spending decisions away from county commissioners. Justice Ricky Polston seemed to agree.  

“If the intent was to have the county commissioners still have discretion on what goes on, this is a strange way of writing this to be voted on by the people,” he said.  

A decision in the case could take weeks or longer. Meanwhile, the county is collecting the one-cent tax but cannot spend it until the court issues its ruling.  

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.