Florida GOP Trying to Kill Transportation Measure

A wide majority of Hillsborough County voted to tax themselves for transit and safer streets. Republicans are trying to block it anyway.

All for Transportation volunteers in Hillsborough County, Fla.
All for Transportation volunteers in Hillsborough County, Fla.

The Republican Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives is using his authority to try to help ensure metro Tampa remains one of America’s most dangerous places to walk or bike.

Rep. José Oliva is asking the state’s Supreme Court to overturn the will of Hillsborough County voters, who last fall voted decisively to tax themselves to pay for transit upgrades and road-safety projects, like sidewalks and trails.

The one-cent sales-tax hike, which will raise $276 million — about half of which will be dedicated to transit — was approved by 57 percent of voters.

But, almost immediately, opponents began attacking the measure in court. Now Oliva has used his legal authority as Speaker of the House to file a brief in support of a lawsuit that seeks to overturn it.

A lower court upheld the constitutionality of the referendum in June, but did strike one passage. But opponents — including Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White — are still not satisfied and are appealing to the Supreme Court.

“The Florida House wants to take away freedom it granted to citizens because it disagrees with how citizens used it — to invest in safer roads and transit options,” said Tyler Hudson, a member of the grassroots All for Transportation campaign that introduced the ballot measure. “This is a thinly disguised attempt at a political do-over masquerading as a legal brief.”

And, in case you were wondering, yes, there appears to be a Koch Brothers connection. The Florida Chapter of Americans for Prosperity — a political arm of the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles Koch (and his late brother, David) — unsuccessfully attempted to oppose the ballot measure.

Oliva is a known supporter of the Kochs who attended a three-day retreat with them in Colorado Springs in 2017, according to Sunshine State News. He was a speaker at an Americans for Prosperty summit in Ohio 2015.

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