The PSTA is at it again: raising taxes. After unnecessarily increasing property taxes $6.3 million this year, they now want an annual $100 million tax hike! However, they are playing a classic politician shell game to make it somewhat more palatable for the voters. To play their shell game they have brought some Tallahassee politicians in on the act. Right now the PSTA collects about $32 million from Property Taxes (of their $56 million budget). However the PSTA wants to add a 1% sales tax in Pinellas County to collect about $130 million per year (making Pinellas taxes the highest in Florida)! In other words, they want to nearly triple their budget and take about $100 million more out of the local economy in taxes. This economy can’t tolerate losing $100 million from productive activity and putting it into the hands of a money-wasting PSTA with its grandiose rail schemes.
Representative Brandes Exposes the hidden tax hike. Dr. McKalip testifies on the need to not give PSTA one more penny of tax money. (see Video of the 15 minutes of testimony and debate here between time points 40:22 and 55:30) .
Why would they do this? For what do they “need” more money? They want to build light rail and a “rapid bus transit” system for the county. They also want to attract federal seed money for rail projects by raising this money for a down payment on this white elephant project for the area. The rail tax vote failed miserably in Tampa and the politicians of Pinellas feel they can fool the voters here by calling an $88 million tax hike a “swap”. In fact they even used political consultants to do a poll and devise this strategy for them to try to fool the voters. In addition there is still no rail plan with a detailed costs and it is likely that the costs will be much higher than stated, requiring more taxes and borrowing in the future.
Apparently Senator Jack Latvala likes the idea of light rail in the county because he is reportedly behind this “clever” political move in Tallahassee. At the House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee yesterday, the bill was approved by the committee based on the mistaken notion that they are “helping” the taxpayers of Pinellas County. What was ignored is that this is a political move and they are actually hurting the taxpayers by giving political cover to tax raisers. At that committee meeting, St. Petersburg Representative Jeff Brandes voted “no” and spoke strongly against the cynical political maneuver. Representative Ed Hooper from the Clearwater area spoke in favor. Five Republicans joined five Democrats in favor of raising taxes while four Republicans saw through the shell game and voted “no”.
The bill is up for a vote in the House Finance and Tax committee and this is the chance for you to contact those committee members and let them know that they should not participate in this game. Below is a sample letter some are sending.
House Finance and Tax Committee
Precourt, Stephen L. [R] Chair; Stephen.Precourt@myfloridahouse.gov
Ray, Lake [R] Vice Chair Lake.Ray@myfloridahouse.gov
Randolph, Scott [D] Democratic Ranking Member Scott.Randolph@myfloridahouse.gov
Abruzzo, Joseph [D] Joseph.Abruzzo@myfloridahouse.gov
Ahern, Larry [R] Larry.Ahern@myfloridahouse.gov
Albritton, Ben [R] Ben.Bergman@myfloridahouse.gov
Berman, Lori [D] Lori.Berman@myfloridahouse.gov
Broxson, Douglas Vaughn “Doug” [R]oug.Broxson@myfloridahouse.gov”>Doug.Broxson@myfloridahouse.gov
Caldwell, Matthew H. “Matt” [R] Matt.Caldwell@myfloridahouse.gov
Costello, Fredrick W. “Fred” [R] Fred.Costello@myfloridahouse.gov
Diaz, Jose Felix [R] Jose.Diaz@myfloridahouse.gov
Fullwood, Reggie [D] Reggie.Fullwood@myfloridahouse.gov
Grant, James W. “J.W.” [R] James.Grant@myfloridahouse.gov
Julien, John Patrick [D] John.Julien@myfloridahouse.gov
Mayfield, Debbie [R] ebbie.Mayfield@myfloridahouse.gov”>Debbie.Mayfield@myfloridahouse.gov
Moraitis, Jr., George R. [R] George.Moraitis@myfloridahouse.gov
Rehwinkel Vasilinda, Michelle [D] Michelle.Rehwinkel@myfloridahouse.gov
Rogers, Hazelle P. “Hazel” [D] Hazel.Rogers@myfloridahouse.gov
Rooney, Jr., Patrick [R] atrick.Rooney@myfloridahouse.gov”>Patrick.Rooney@myfloridahouse.gov
Steube, W. Gregory “Greg” [R] Grege.Steube@myfloridahouse.gov
Thurston, Jr., Perry E. [D] erry.Thurston@myfloridahouse.gov”>Perry.Thurston@myfloridahouse.gov
Van Zant, Charles E. [R] Charles.VanZant@myfloridahouse.gov
Weinstein, Michael B. “Mike” [R] Mike.Weinstein@myfloridahouse.gov
Workman, Ritch [R] Ritch.Workman@myfloridahouse.gov
I am a citizen of Pinellas County and am writing you today in regards to HB 865. This bill seeks to add a 1% Sales Tax hike to our current sales tax to fund Public Transportation and a Light Rail System in Pinellas County. This bill contains language that does not guarantee the current PSTA Property Tax will be eliminated. Furthermore, the citizens of Pinellas County cannot bear the burden of a higher Sales Tax increase. With an unemployment rate of 9.8%, well above the national average, this new tax would further burden the already depressed purchasing power of thousands who find themselves out of work, underemployed and those who have given up on their efforts to find work.
The Light Rail, Alternative Analysis Study, currently being conducted by Jacobs Consulting has not provided factual numbers. For example, Jacobs Consulting ridership numbers represent “trips” not actual “people in seats”. Our own Pinellas County Board of Commissioners has admonished the consultants of Jacobs Consulting to make a better effort to “clean-up” the numbers and present “factual data.”
With this type of disingenuous information and the (burdensome) tax proposals being used to make the case in favor of a Light Rail System/Extended Bus System, it is much too soon to be asking for funding for such a project. In light of these two important facts, I am asking that you vote “NO” on HB 865.