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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

The Florida Legislature pushes a decision on the Hillsborough transportation tax to next year

House representative Blaise Ingoglia speaking in Florida senate with a document in his hand, with some of his colleagues positioned behind him.
The Florida Channel
Hernando County Republican House Representative Blaise Ingoglia speaking about the Hillsborough County transportation tax on the Senate floor.

The issue of how to distribute the $570 million will be taken up during the 2024 legislative session.

Hillsborough County residents will have to wait at least another year to find out what will happen to the $570 million gathered in a now-defunct 2018 transportation tax.

The Florida Legislature is in control of what will happen to that money next.

The 1% sales tax was collected from 2019 until 2021, when the Florida Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional after a challenge from former county commissioner Stacy White.

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Following the court decision, the Hillsborough County Commission set up a plan to have it refunded to the public, but a circuit judge denied the proposal, leaving it up to the state legislature instead.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, made the announcement on the full Senate floor Thursday. He noted that part of another tax bill that would have set aside legal fees for figuring out how to spend the withheld Hillsborough tax money was being removed.

"Both chambers are still wrestling with the idea of how to return the money for that Hillsborough tax that was found in the courts to be unconstitutional," Ingoglia said.

The House plan, which was passed, would have allocated roughly $7 million to Hillsborough County for legal services and administrative costs associated with figuring out where the money would go.

“The question the legislature is wrestling with is, how do we return to that money?” Ingoglia said. “Do we return that money as a portion of what it was intended for, in terms of transportation? Is it partially refunds? Or was it going to be sales tax holidays?"

The House and Senate both had varying plans for the $570 millions, with the house proposing a Hillsborough-only sales tax holiday. It would lower the sales tax on businesses to 1% until the savings reached $570 million.

The Senate plan was similar to one proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in February, which didn't include any money for mass transit, instead focusing on improving roads and bridges and directly refunding taxpayers who would have to apply for the refund.

In February, the Hillsborough County Commission sent a wish list of projects that they wanted to see funded through the defunct tax money. It included $200 million for improvements to Lithia Pinecrest Road, $100 million for 19th Avenue, and millions of dollars going to several other major roads in the county in need of repair.

Ingoglia says solving where the money will go will be handled in the 2024 legislative session.

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