A state judge ordered the item be removed from the ballot this week, ahead of Election Day.
While early voters who have already received mail-in ballots may have voted on the measure, the new order voids those votes and prevents further action to approve or disapprove of the transportation tax for this election cycle.
Had the referendum been approved, the funding from the surtax would have paid to fix roads and other transportation issues in Hillsborough County.
The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections said notices will now be posted online about the order. Signage will also be placed at voting booths and locations to let voters know the measure will not count even if they vote on it.
According to the judge’s order, filed the evening of Oct. 27, the county will not face “irreparable harm” with the item removed, nor will voters. Additionally, the judge wrote that “The county has no present ownership interest in the surtax proceeds,” which amounts to millions of dollars.
Currently, those dollars are held – and therefore unusable until further action is taken. According to the judge’s order, “if the county commission deems it necessary to make transportation improvements between now and the 2024 election, it has a $17 billion budget.”
Had the surtax measure been approved by voters, the taxes would have been levied beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The judge said that Hillsborough County officials showed “no inclination or willingness to direct the Department of Revenue to abate collection” until after the appeals process.
In the meantime, the legal battle over the surtax more generally will continue via appeals processes. The ruling from Judge Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe stated that the refund process for voters to receive their money back should the tax be collected before the legal process concludes does not exist.
The surtax itself has been waiting for years, with the judge stating “there is no process by which taxpayers can get their money back from the wrongfully-assessed 2018 surtax,” even four years later. For now, the years-long battle over Hillsborough’s 1% surtax remains with the funding itself out of reach.