“All of the Surtax [Greenlight] Net Proceeds…to be used by PSTA for the planning, development, construction, expansion, operation, and maintenance of future passenger rail and regional connections, PSTA’s present and future bus service, and/or an expanded bus system…” (Greenlight law agreed to by Pinellas county Commission and PSTA making expanded bus service optional).
Greenlight Pinellas supporters hope you are stupid. They are counting on it for victory. Their campaign does not mention that the $2.4 billion train will consume the vast majority of the $1.34 billion raised by the Greenlight 14% sales tax hike over ten years. They instead refer to a promise of 65% expanded bus service. It is the core of their campaign which has been based on distraction and deception from day one. However the law has already been put on the books that makes expanded bus service OPTIONAL. That is right, there is no guarantee for expanded bus service but there is a rock solid guarantee of building a St. Pete to Clearwater train that will require and extra billion from somewhere to build.
The Pinellas County Commission and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) recently passed their “interlocal agreement” that spells out how the money will be collected and spent. Once the money reaches the PSTA, money is protected for rail spending but optional for expanded bus service. Paragraph 3(B) of the agreement, clearly states the funds are “to be used” for all train construction and maintenance, and to pay for the current level of bus service. Then, as an afterthought, the agreement indicates funds could be used for expanded bus service. It does this with some tricky “legal fine print” maneuvers to put the train as the first recipient of funds then places expanded bus service after an “and/or” (read full text below*). IF the Pinellas County commission and PSTA really cared about expanded bus service, it would have read this way (Warning: this is fantasy wording): “to be used by PSTA for the planning, development, construction, expansion, operation, and maintenance of an expanded bus system, PSTA’s present and future bus service and/or future passenger rail and regional connections…” (Warning: this has been fantasy wording for how responsible policy would be written to TRULY GUARANTEE expanded bus service).
This makes it clear that all the politicians that have been claiming to expand bus service 65% (what does that mean anyway?) are – gasp – not being fully forthcoming with the truth. This phenomenon is also known as lying. In fact, the December 2013 PSTA consultants report, Ernst and Young, made it clear that the if rail money runs short then expanded bus service can be cut. Here is how they put it: “The amount of [bus] service increase or implementation schedule could be refined in response to substantial revenue shortfalls or cost overruns.” . Again, the tax will not raise the extra billion dollars needed to finish the train, thus the shortfall is guaranteed and built in to the plan!.
It is likely hard for the humble reader to believe, but the politicians are not telling you the truth on Greenlight Pinellas. There is NO guarantee of expanded bus service, in fact it is already on the chopping block!
*(B) All of the Surtax Net Proceeds shall be distributed to PSTA after receipt, inaccordance with Section 7 hereof, except as provided I Section 5 hereof, to be used by PSTA for the planning, development, construction, expansion, operation, and maintenance of future passenger rail and regional connections, PSTA’s present and future bus service, and/or an expanded bus system with bus rapid transit, increased frequency and extended hours and for the payment of principal and interest on bonds, or other obligations, or indebtedness refinancing such bonds or other obligations, issued or incurred for such transit service, as authorized under Section 212.055(1), Florida Statutes.