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Hillsborough Waits For Ruling On Transportation Tax

HART bus parked at a bus stop

Hillsborough County leaders are waiting to hear if a voter-approved transportation sales tax is legal. The Florida Supreme Court could issue a ruling any time. 

Hillsborough voters approved the one-cent sales tax, championed by the group All for Transportation, in 2018. It would fund Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, as well as transportation projects approved by the county and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.  

In February, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the tax’s legality. Opponents argue the charter amendment that voters approved takes power away from county commissioners. That’s because it included a formula for how the tax would be spent.  

Supporters say Hillsborough residents voted to tax themselves, so they should have input on spending decisions.  

The legal dispute hasn't stopped the county from collecting the tax. But it's sitting in a separate fund until the legal issues are resolved. According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, collections are below the estimated yearly target of $280 million, as the coronavirus pandemic has led to a slowdown in consumer spending. County commissioners discussed placing a "Plan B" transportation tax on the November ballot if the 2018 tax was struck down, but the commission ultimately rejected the idea.

It's not clear when the Supreme Court will issue its ruling. The court was in recess for most of the summer and will release its next round of opinions on August 27.

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