Opposition is growing to a new sales tax proposed in Osceola County. County residents will vote on May 21 on a one-cent sales tax which would remain in effect for 30 years to fund transportation projects in Osceola County.
State Rep. Mike LaRosa, R–St. Cloud, is the latest official to oppose the proposed tax, saying, if passed, it would be 8.5 percent, the highest in the state.
“This is an unfair burden on our residents. We must find other options to fund the cost of transportation and refocus on how our county dollars are spent,” LaRosa told Florida Daily.
The county insists an additional one-cent sales tax would raise as much as $60 million annually for transportation projects: improving infrastructure; improving bicycle and pedestrian safety; reducing congestion; improving emergency response times; decreasing time in traffic; strengthening the economy with better mobility; and investing in roads for future generations.
What the county left out is a specific project list that will be funded. This has LaRosa questioning why the referendum has to happen right away,
“Osceola County citizens and businesses deserve more than a rushed, special election at what seems to be a quick money grab at the taxpayers’ expense,” LaRosa said. “I strongly oppose this increase in sales tax and urge all my fellow residents to oppose this hurtful, regressive tax on its citizens.”
Sunrail continues to be a looming problem over Osceola County, much like it is across the region. When the state approved the train, it agreed to fund its operations through 2020 but local governments will have to find a way to pay for the train beginning in 2021. Sunrail runs an operational deficit just like other mass transit programs and officials will need to come up with somewhere between $40-$50 million dollars a year to operate the commuter rail.
Osceola County staffers are pushing the idea that some of the tax will be paid by visitors. Not only does Osceola County get millions of tourists each year because it is on Disney’s doorstep but the county also gets significant amounts of non-residents that either work in or visit on a regular basis.
The county anticipates it can raise more than $2 billion over 30 years if voters approve the proposal. There will be nothing else on the single issue referendum on May 21.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.