BRADENTON, Fla. — An anti-transit tax group on the west coast of Florida wants voters to remain vigilant against future attempts to fund a light-rail commuter system.
"The solid defeat of Greenlight Pinellas on Nov. 4 was a great victory for the citizens of Pinellas County," No Tax for Tracks said in a recent email newsletter. "However, already on election night, some elected officials and other prominent people were already talking about another referendum in 2016."
Some 62% of voters in Pinellas rejected an extra penny sales tax to expand the county's mass transit system, which called for $2.2 billion in bus service improvements as well as building a new, 24-mile light rail system.
In rejecting the sales tax as a funding source for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, voters opted to keep a property tax capped at three-quarters of a mill that supports the system along with fares. In Florida, one mill is the equivalent of $1 in taxes per $1,000 of assessed property value.
A similar sale tax hike was defeated in Polk County during the Nov. 4 election, though plans there did not call for a rail system.
In 2010, Hillsborough County saw voters reject a sales tax for transit initiatives by 58%. That transit plan also included a rail component.
However, some elected officials in Hillsborough have discussed attempting another referendum in 2016 to fund public transportation.
Despite the sentiment by voters over the last four years, "these politicians just won't take no for an answer," No Tax For Tracks spokesperson Barb Haselden said in the group's recent newsletter.
"The multi-billion dollar slush fund they hope to create is just too tempting," she said.
Haselden asked supporters of the anti-tax cause to keep their No Tax For Tracks yard signs up, and said more information would be available after the holidays.
Pinellas is part of the Tampa Bay region, and lies southwest of Hillsborough County whose seat is Tampa.
The region is the largest, established metropolitan area in Florida not served by a rail system.
In central Florida, the state is picking up a large amount of the tab for the SunRail commuter rail system with surrounding governments also providing funds. A portion of the system began operating in early 2014, while surrounding areas are being phased-in. SunRail is designed to largely serve theme parks and businesses in the Orlando area.
In south Florida, the state's largest metro region serving Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, Tri-Rail provides the region with bus services as well as the first commuter rail system ever built in the state.