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Legal Snag Could Threaten Just-Passed Hillsborough Transit Tax Hike

December 4, 2018 - 12:45pm

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit Monday to kill the 1 percent sales tax increase passed for transit on Nov. 6, 10News has reported.

The measure was passed with 57 percent of the vote in Hillsborough and is due to go into effect Jan. 1.

One of the two legal claims White made in his lawsuit is that the citizen petition tax hike violates Florida Statute 212.055(1)(d). That portion of state law gives county commissioners the sole authority to allocate these sales tax revenues, whereas the measure passed gives that authority to a supposedly independent “oversight committee.”

In response to the lawsuit, All For Transportation (AFT), the group behind the sales tax hike, claims their effort was “thorougly vetted.” But the question is, did AFT obtain an expert legal opinion on the objection White now raises?

Commissioner Stacy White
Commissioner Stacy White

One thing is certain: AFT chairman Tyler Hudson knew about this potential legal snag at least as early as July 5. That's the day the Guardian asked him about the issue in an e-mail. The Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office was copied on the e-mail which is now part of the public record.

In that same e-mail, the Guardian also asked if AFT had obtained “a legal opinion on its petition before it started gathering signatures.” Despite repeated e-mails and calls to Hudson and his assistant, the Guardian received no response and published its story July 7.

Hudson and AFT thus forged ahead, spending $700,000 of developer Jeff Vinik’s money and a total of $4 million on their tax hike effort, even though this substantive legal question was raised well before the measure was placed on the ballot.

Hudson could now be facing some tough questions from heavyweight financial backers like Vinik, Frank Morsani, the Tampa Bay Partnership an a legald others. Questions such as these:

  • Did AFT obtain an opinion about the initiative before embarking on the petition effort? If not, why not?
  • If AFT did obtain a legal opinion, what did that opinion say?
  • Once AFT became aware of this potential violation of state law, did AFT inform the major donors to this effort? Did AFT inform its governing board?
  • Did AFT actively look for weaknesses in its plan or was this a groupthink plan?

Tom Rask, a conservative Pinellas County-based blogger, founded the Tampa Bay Guardian.


Glad that Mr. White is suing. I wondered how the billionaires in Tampa could choose their own government. Too bad so many of the county voices are so gullible. Everyone pays more and the billionaires make more billions. People in Nashville were so much smarter.

I was one of the people who volunteered my time to help get the necessary petition signatures. I easily got 100+ just by asking people visiting Jan Platt Library in South Tampa. While some of the people were skeptical at first, many after carefully reading the information about the make-up of the representative group which would help make decision, they were satisfied and signed on. These people represented both conservatives and liberals. Many of them have lived in this area for many years and have seen the significant changes in traffic and how that has impacted our lives. Many also mentioned they want their adult children to move back here when we get better jobs as a result of having better transportation available to them. I think Mr. White should carefully read what so many other people did and trust in the ability of the wide range of persons to make good decisions about our transportation needs and new possibilities as a result of this tax.

When planning and stratgizing on any decision, I always advise people to consider the 2nd, 3rd and 4th order effects. Obviously that was not done with regard to the AFT.

Hahahahaha as opposed to the other option. They did and this is a sore loser lawsuit.

Hospitality workers will suffer tremendously. Guess where diners will make up paying for the corrupt transit tax?

Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. Even the billionaires and multi-millionaires who were behind this couldn't pay enough to get the job done right! Go get 'em, Rask and White!

i live only 2 miles from Pasco County- I already do 50% of my shopping there and now will do all of my shopping in Pasco. Buying a car- go to Pasco, buying furniture- go to Pasco, Lowes/Home Depot- Pasco, WalMart- Pasco. And all my online purchases will be shipped to my daughter in Pasco. 1 and 1/2 cent increase in sales tax adds up! Retailers near the county line will see a drop in their sales come January due to the increase in sales tax in Hillsborough.

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