Editor’s note: This is part of a series on the top stories in Pasco County during 2013 as selected by The Pasco Tribune staff.
DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners spent much of the year debating whether to raise the county’s gas tax to pay for a backlog of road paving and maintenance projects. They needed four votes to hike the tax by even a penny per gallon. They only got three.
That was after dozens of citizens spoke against the increase during a four-hour public hearing at the Historic County Courthouse in September.
Two months later, commissioners said they would reconsider the gas tax hike — along with a new property tax for roads — in 2014.
The current gas tax for unleaded fuel — federal, state and local — adds up to 48.9 cents a gallon. Each new penny would have generated about $1.5 million for road paving and maintenance.
Commissioner Henry Wilson, who cast the deciding vote in September, said 2013 wasn’t the right time — especially since commissioners approved an 8 percent property tax increase this year.
“Since that vote, I’ve heard from a lot of people who said I should have supported some kind of compromise,” Wilson said. “I also heard from people who were happy I voted the way I did. I probably got over 200 emails.”
Now Wilson, who is up for reelection in 2014, says he is open to considering a combination gas tax and road and bridge millage next year to restore funding for more than a dozen road projects that would have been delayed or cut because of a lack of funds.
“I could do 3 (cents per gallon), but nothing more than 3,” Wilson said during a workshop in November. “I’m willing to look at all the options.”