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Hillsborough County Voters Pass Transportation Surtax – And Now It’s June…

In November 2018, more than 57 percent of Hillsborough County voters approved the imposition of a 1 percent sales tax designed to improve the county’s transportation infrastructure and transit service. The tax, enacted through the gathering of signatures to propose an amendment to the county’s governing document, the Hillsborough County Charter, went into effect on January 1, 2019, and is effective for 30 years. While the tax went into effect, litigation challenging the tax was filed and the local governments in Hillsborough County have had to spend time and money on a legal defense, as opposed to making transportation improvements. More than $62 million dollars has reportedly already been collected. 

So what happened?

On June 17, 2019, a circuit court judge upheld the overall constitutionality of the transportation tax adopted by the voters, but ordered an amendment of the county’s charter to remove several provisions as the court found them to be inconsistent with general law and therefore unconstitutional. The court “severed” the language that it found problematic and kept the rest. In Florida, counties can pass laws and adopt county charter changes, but not in a manner that is inconsistent with the laws adopted by the state legislature.

What stays?

The court order allows the 1 percent sales tax to continue to be collected and used for transportation projects. The Independent Oversight Committee remains in place to review annual audits of the use of the tax, prepare annual reports, and review citizen proposals.

What goes?

The charter amendment as approved included a very specific allocation of how the sales tax collected could be spent, such as how much was to be spent by the local transit agency, how much for congestion reduction, and a series of other specific transportation uses. This allocation of funds was stricken by the court, and therefore the allocation of funds would now be done at the discretion of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. The Independent Oversight Committee’s power to approve project plans was also removed by the court, along with all of the specified prohibited uses that were in the charter amendment proposal, such as the limitation on using funds for highway lanes.

What’s next?

There is a possibility of appeals of the court’s decision by either side. If this court decision is the final word on the validity of the tax, then the debate shifts to the County Commission to see how the transportation tax funds will be allocated, with calls already being made to follow the formula approved by the voters.

©2011-2020 Carlton Fields, P.A. National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 170


About this Author

Jourdan R. Haynes Real Estate Lawyer Carlton Fields Law Firm

Jourdan Haynes counsels on a wide range of complex commercial real estate matters, with an emphasis on property acquisition; disposition; commercial leasing, including telecommunication leasing, and condominium and planned unit developments; and construction and permanent financing. He also represents note holders, servicers, and other financial institutions in a variety of loan transactions, loan sales, workouts, and dispositions of real estate. Jourdan has handled numerous types of commercial and real estate transactions, and regularly represents clients in connection with mortgage...

Jin Liu real estate lawyer Carlton Fields Law Firm

Jin Liu represents real estate investment trusts (REITs), national builders, resort developers, other developers of large commercial and residential projects, pension funds, and other instiutional investors in the purchase and sale of both improved and unimproved property, business planning and implementation, transaction structuring, equity investment, and a variety of financing transactions. Jin also represents banks, other institutional lenders, loan servicers, and other financial institutions in a wide range of loan transactions, loan sales, workouts, and disposition of real estate. Jin has experience advising developers and financial institutions with respect to Florida condominium filings and condominium-related due diligence issues.

Scott Pence Real Estate Lawyer

Scott Pence is a construction and real estate attorney whose practice focuses primarily on representing developers, owners, architects, contractors, and subcontractors in the preparation, negotiation, modification, and administration of all types of contracts and forms related to construction and development transactions. Scott's practice also includes reviewing and advising clients with respect to insurance and risk management issues. Scott has been involved in many large, complex projects both in the State of Florida and across the country, including major stadiums, arenas, ballparks,...

Kenneth A. Tinkler Government Regulations Lawyer Carlton Fields

Ken  Tinkler’s practice involves a wide variety of government law issues with a focus on land use, environmental and energy permitting, ethics regulation, and election law. His experience includes representing individuals and corporations dealing with federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as representing state, county government and constitutional officers. 

Ken has helped clients navigate a broad range of government law matters, including zoning, future land use plans, ad valorem tax assessments, property tax appeals, code enforcement, variances, annexations,...