As a long-time and proud resident of Pinellas County, I am very concerned about the additional 1 cent increase in sales tax being proposed by Greenlight Pinellas. I have always been supportive of increases in taxes to improve our community; however, on this issue I will have to vote “no.”
The following points are just a few of my many reasons:
Currently, buses appear to be over half empty. This would be very apparent if the bus windows were not so heavily tinted. Greenlight Pinellas will spend a portion of the tax to purchase, operate and maintain many more buses. Will more buses improve ridership per bus? No.
Greenlight Pinellas proposes a single light-rail system that will run from downtown St. Pete to downtown Clearwater, with stops planned for the Gandy area, Carillon and Largo. The increase in sales tax will be paid by all individuals and businesses throughout Pinellas County. Will the light-rail system benefit areas such as Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Eastlake, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Bellaire, Gulfport, south St. Pete or all of the beach communities between St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach? No.
If Greenlight Pinellas succeeds in raising our sales tax, Pinellas will have an 8 percent sales tax rate. That would be one of the highest in Florida as well as in the Southeastern United States. This is not good for businesses, or you and me.
Pinellas used to be recognized for having low tax rates. Should Pinellas have such a high sales tax? No.
If Greenlight Pinellas succeeds in getting voter approval for increasing the sales tax, it may seriously jeopardize voters’ renewal of the Penny for Pinellas optional sales tax in a few years. The Penny for Pinellas was approved by the voters for construction of transportation projects, traffic improvement, parks and recreation, criminal justice facilities, and pedestrian and bicycle projects. It is a worthwhile program, but it could be at risk should Greenlight Pinellas pass.
Should we allow Greenlight Pinellas to jeopardize the successful Penny for Pinellas program? No.