Central Florida's largest transportation planning agency released its list of legislative priorities for the session that will begin in March, and the ability to raise taxes appears several times in several forms. New Metroplan Board Chair Daisy Lynum says her top priority will be to find money for the Lynx bus system.
"We need, first of all in my opinion, dedicated dollars for Lynx, period," said Lynum. "That's my priority for 2013, and we are going to have to have some kind of way to pay for SunRail, but we at least have seven years to work through all the kinks with SunRail."
SunRail will begin service in 2014, but the state will pay for operations for the first seven years, before local governments take over. Metroplan is asking the state for permission to levy a $2.50 per day rental car surcharge.
"That surcharge has been there for years, and years, and years. I've been on Metroplan for 12 years, and this is the twelfth year I've seen it, but the counties have that prerogative to do that anyway."
It currently takes a super majority of county commissioners to raise gas taxes in a county, but Metroplan would like that law amended to a simple majority. Originally, staff wanted to include two new types of sales taxes as a legislative priority. They first wanted individual counties to be able to raise sales taxes without going to the voters for a referendum, but simply voting on the increase.
Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards was part of the effort to remove that platform.
"Voters should approve whether or not they want to be taxed for these for these revenues. Before we would pass a gas tax increase or a sales tax increase, the voters would have to approve it and say, 'yeah this is important enough to us that we're willing to pay more revenue for these facilities'."
Another item that was removed called for the ability to levy a regional sales tax. Voters in all Central Florida counties with SunRail would have been asked to pass a sales tax with a majority vote in the region, not in each county being the decider.
Metroplan is looking for funding because federal and local allocations from gas taxes continue to dwindle as cars become more fuel efficient. The money raised would be used for Lynx and SunRail.