HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Hillsborough County judge gave the all clear for the transportation sales tax to move forward after delays, but now it’s unclear exactly how the money will be allocated.
Voters approved the 1-cent increase last November, which included allocations to fund road improvements and public transit upgrades, but County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the amendment.
Circuit Judge Rex Barbas ruled Monday to uphold the sales tax but shifted the decision for where the money goes from voters, to county commissioners.
Commissioner Kimberly Overman released a statement saying she respects the judge’s decision to leave it to commissioners to determine how the funds should be distributed.
“We must secure the 45% allocation of funds dedicated to transit, as well as the other 55% dedicated to safety, congestion relief and smart growth,” Overman said.
Benjamin Limmer, CEO of The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit said, “HART welcomes Judge Barbas’ decision upholding expanded funding for public transportation in the region.”
“Fifty-seven percent of the voters were very clear in their support of a transportation formula that would support the needs of a best-in-class transportation network. We look forward to working with the Hillsborough County Board of County Commission (BOCC) to ensure the best use of the transformational investment that will the improve the transit experience for Hillsborough County; our goal is to partner with the BOCC to fulfill the taxpayers’ vision,” Limmer said.
The group, All for Transportation created the amendment and is calling the ruling a major victory.
“The Hillsborough County Commission has the power to put back what the court has taken away and so we will ask the board at its next meeting to do just that, to follow the wishes of the more than 282,000 residents who voted for the plan exactly as described in the Charter amendment that they approved to be spent,” said All for Transportation Chair Tyler Hudson.
Hudson told 8 On Your Side they don’t foresee the need for any appeals in court and said people are tired of lawsuits.
“This has been a fight the whole way, it was a fight to get on the ballot, it was a fight to win at the ballot box in November and we’re going to continue to fight for the plan that people overwhelming voted for in November,” Hudson said. “Hillsborough County is a growing place and we all know that. More people are coming every day and so folks are going to start to see changes soon as the government agencies start to spend this tax money.”
Agencies are working on a priority list and are expected to hand it over to the Commission for review this fall.
8 On Your Side will reach out to Commissioner White’s office for a statement concerning his next step now that the judge has ruled against parts of his lawsuit.