If it were up to the “Greenlight Pinellas” proponents, voters who are being asked to raise sales tax rates by 14% in November would only hear about an alleged bus expansion. They wouldn’t hear that Pinellas would have the highest sales tax in the state at 8%. They wouldn’t hear that the PSTA would increase tax collections from the county by 300% or that the planned St. Pete to Clearwater train would still need more funds to build. No, they would hear about the wonderful guaranteed “65%” expansion of bus service. The only problem with that approach is that it is a lie.
Today the Tampa Bay Times is breathlessly reporting on facebook poll by the tax-hiking “People’s Budget Review” that a majority of those surveyed still don’t know that Greenlight would expand bus service. This is despite the $800,000 in taxpayer dollars spent by PSTA to spread the word over years. The survey, the transit lovers say, is evidence that people just aren’t informed enough about the wonders of a 300% tax hike. Just like, it would seem, those who are uninformed about the great benefit of enrolling in Obamacare. The People’s Budget Review, made up of Occupy Wall Street alumni, extreme environmentalists and big government union activists, insist that as soon as people realize that this is all about the busses, then people will vote to raise their sales taxes.
Yet here is where the “it’s about busses” arguments falls short. It’s really all about the train. In fact, the PSTA hired a consultant Enrst and Young who published a financial feasibility analysis 12/4/13. Here is what the paid consultants say about bus service.
|“PSTA Consultant, 12/4/13, Ernst and Young: “The amount of [bus] service increase or implementation schedule could be refined in response to substantial revenue shortfalls or cost overruns.”|
The fact is that there will be “substantial revenue shortfalls” since the amount of money raised for the $2.6 billion train project is $1.2 billion out of the total $1.8 billion raised over ten years. So there will be cannibalization of all funds for bus expansion to pay for the trains. There is no other reason for the Chamber of Commerce and the Yes for Greenlight team to plan to raise over a million dollars to support the campaign. Would wealthy land developers and owners and land attorney’s spend this much money to expand a bus system? No, but they would do it to make sure they can build a train from St. Pete to Clearwater that they will benefit from at the expense of the poor and middle class who now will pay new sales taxes they have never paid before. (By the way, the “Yes for Greenlight” campaign Won’t Reveal who their donors are – to hide the obvious conflicts of interest. Stealing bus money to pay for trains is a common local government scenario and led to a lawsuit by black and poor neighborhoods in L.A. to get back ten years of bus money in what was called “transit apartheid“.
The “expanded” bus service is nothing more than a deception by the wealthy and well-connected to transfer wealth to their pockets through taxation. Voters would do well to not be deceived by this propaganda.