By B.C. Manion
It wasn’t even close.
Voters soundly rejected a proposed 1-cent sales tax to expand bus services, improve roads and support a light rail system in Hillsborough County.
Sharon Calvert, treasurer of NoTaxForTracks.com, said her group was confident that voters would reject the tax once they had a clear understanding of the issues.
“We felt that when we got our message out it would resonate with voters,” said Calvert, whose group mounted an opposition campaign to the proposed transit tax.
The 1-cent sales tax would have funded light rail, road improvements and expanded bus services.
But most of it would have gone to support light rail, Calvert said. “The cost was way too high, it did way too little and it benefitted too few,” she said.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who championed the tax, said it is too soon to know what backers of the transit tax will do next.
“We need to take our time to evaluate what happened,” Iorio said. “We need to look at all of the things that went right and all of the things that went wrong,” she said.
“One big thing is the economy,” said Iorio. “Many voters I talked to said, “Pam, I think this is good idea, but I don’t think it is the right time.’ “
“People were just not ready to make that investment,” she said.
Iorio said she has been in touch with supporters of light rail who want to maintain the coalition that backed the cause, but Iorio said she is not sure what kind of role the new mayor of Tampa will want to play in the issue. Iorio leaves office next year due to term limits.
Calvert said she doubts that last week’s vote will signal the end of the issue. “We are expecting that this will be back,” she said.