Before the Jacksonville City Council gets all giddy about raising the gas tax another six cents per gallon and giving half the proceeds to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), they might consider taking two important steps: reviewing its past performance when given a six-cent extension of the sales tax six years ago; and evaluating who is most impacted by the additional tax.
Historically, the gas tax is a progressive tax that impacts the poor the most. Generally speaking, lower-income earners do not own gas-efficient cars and are not likely to purchase an EV vehicle in the next 10 to 20 years. More importantly, COVID-19 has changed the nature of work—perhaps permanently. As widely noted, the more disadvantaged among us are unlikely to have remote work opportunities which could reduce their consumption of gasoline. One of public transportation’s most important purposes is to assist the disadvantaged and this tax clearly doesn’t do that!
Regarding JTA’s past performance, the antiquated Skyway Express was a boondoggle when built. It continues to drain valuable resources to maintain and operate a system to nowhere. The Skyway Express is a system that does little to help any significant portion of the population with transportation needs. Giving the JTA tax dollars with ineffective oversight is how we got the Skyway Express in the first place! No need to repeat that mistake.
Has JTA even completed a significant portion of all the projects it committed to with the sales tax increase six years ago? There is no reason to believe that its accountability has changed or that it should be given additional taxpayer dollars without establishing a track record of efficiently completing past projects.
Shame on those who want to pass a tax that will only hurt those who can’t afford it. Shame on those who aren’t willing to demand full accountability of how the previous tax funds were spent and why previously promised projects were not completed.
Finally, Jacksonville City Council members and Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration should not lie to voters about how tourists and visitors will end up shouldering the proposed tax increase. Only politicians believe that and they have already lost most, if not all, of their credibility on JEA and Lot J.