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bobliocatt

Bush wants taxes for roads - $9.5 billion worth

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LEGISLATURE

Putting aside his no-tax mantra, Gov. Jeb Bush is recommending new taxes on local governments and a $9.5 billion state bond to pay for roads.

BY MARY ELLEN KLAS

[email protected]

on his long-standing demand that local tax

increases be approved by voters

Gov. Jeb Bush broke a Republican impasse Wednesday over who would come up with a new source of money to build roads, schools and water systems, announcing that he would ''put aside'' his long-standing opposition to borrowing and ask voters statewide to approve $9.5 billion in bonds.

In his announcement, Bush also abandoned another core value: Requiring cities and counties to get voter approval before raising new taxes, which he said would provide an additional $5.3 billion.

The governor, who has built his career on lowering taxes and resisting borrowing, said he has concluded that the state's fractured growth planning system can't be fixed by tougher state laws but also needs an infusion of new cash to help unclog roads, build new schools and pay for new water systems.

''I am prepared to put aside a deeply held belief, to be honest with you, about voter approval,'' Bush said, referring to his long-standing demand that every local tax increase be approved by voters.

He said the untapped tax sources are available to local governments but have been inaccessible because voters have rejected new taxes or county officials have failed to seek approval for them. Bush said the biggest offenders have been Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which could generate nearly 30 percent of the $5.3 billion.

The governor's proposal breaks an impasse between him and the leaders of the House and Senate, who were leery of publicly proposing a new source of state money that could be considered a tax. But Bush's proposal is not guaranteed to pass, with the 60-day Legislative session having passed the halfway mark.

Senate President Tom Lee has questioned the wisdom of borrowing -- and wondered whether it's wise to support nearly $500 million in tax cuts that the governor seeks at the same time. Lee has demanded a dedicated, year-in-year-out source of money to pay for growth management.

Also, the governor's proposal doesn't guarantee that local governments will want to pass new taxes -- with or without the support of voters.

The governor's plan would give county governments the ability to collectively raise up to $1.1 billion for new roads, $1.8 billion for new schools and another $1.4 billion for general growth-related needs.

The proposal is most aggressive at tackling the state's $23 billion backlog in road needs. Bush's plan would use $1 billion in cash this year and next, from a windfall in state revenues, followed by a 10-year bond to pay for a $9.5 billion road-building program. The bonding authority would have to be approved by voters statewide, and Bush suggests a special election be held this November.

''The voters of this state, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, will support increases in taxes for infrastructure,'' the governor said at a press conference Wednesday.

``They may not support bigger government. They will support roads -- to make it easier to drop their children off at school and to go to work. And they obviously will support increases in school construction to deal with the overcrowding in their community.''

The governor conceded, however, that even the nearly $15 billion he is pursuing ``is still not enough.''

''The deficits have been mounting over a generation of time,'' he said. ``They exist. They're real and they're going to create hardships for the next generation.''

The proposal is the latest attempt by the governor to bridge the gap between the House and Senate over finding money to pay for the state's growth needs.

Senate President Lee has vowed to resist any plan that fails to include a state revenue source to pay for what he believes is a $35 billion backlog in services.

The issue is a top priority of Lee's, but he has failed to offer a state tax proposal.

Meanwhile, the stalemate over growth management has prompted Lee to delay discussions over the $500 million tax cut plan pushed by Bush and House leaders and has stalled budget negotiations.

House Speaker Allan Bense said his chamber will ''not vote for new taxes'' but would be willing to use about $400 million of the state's surplus money to pay for growth needs and would consider redirecting existing tax revenues into a special roads or schools account.

Bush said he would reject any attempt to raise the state sales tax to pay for growth. But he is attempting to meet Lee halfway by offering to use state revenues to pay off bonds for a decade into the future.

Lee said the governor's plan falls short and could lead to budget problems in the future.

''Our number is somewhere in the $35 billion range,'' he said. ``Can we get there this year? Probably not.''

The governor's proposal also attempts to tighten the rules by which local communities may approve new development, requiring them to have a pay-as-you-go system in place that identifies money sources for the roads, schools and water systems every development needs.

''The plans must be financially feasible,'' Bush said. ``That means there has to be real money behind them. They can't just be pie in the sky.''

The governor's plan would requires counties, schools and cities to making the following changes:

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Pure hypocrisy. This much money to be spent on nothing but roads is a waste, and it doesn't show vision as far as growth management in urban areas is concerned. He just doesn't get it.

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While Bullet Rail might not have been the MOST effective thing, nasty @$$ roads are a big waste of time. We need better regional transportation in this state (i.e. Miami-West Palm Beach and Orlando-Tampa)

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The problem doesn't lie within the linking of the metros, that seems to run pretty smoothly. The problem is the intra-metro transportation. A high speed rail will only aid the travellers between the metros, which the interstates do a pretty good job of. You hit the traffic within the metro area. This is where the money needs to be spent on mass transit. There just aren't enough people travelling from metro to metro on a regular basis to really support a high-speed rail system.

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I wonder if more money would make them finish the work on I-4 any faster? Probably not.

I agree with asonj. This money will actually be worthwhile if it's spent improving transportation networks of ALL KINDS, not just roads, within overcrowded metro areas. But I don't think that's going to happen. We'll start up a friendly wager. I say the first project to come out of this money is widening I-75 in reliably Republican southwest Florida. Who has another bet?

What scares me is Jeb's statement that new laws aren't what we need. Perhaps that was an elliptical comment. I'm sure he doesn't think $10B of roads is enough to solve our growth problems. Right? Surely he means, new or stronger laws alone aren't what we need; what we need is laws backed up by actual funding. I'm sure (hope) that's what he meant.

On another note, it'll be amusing to see what will happen if the Clay County board is given the right to raise gas taxes without voter approval. Voters there wouldn't even approve a penny sales tax to fund the [underfunded and rapidly sinking] school system of which they claim to be such big supporters. What'll happen if they're forced to pay extra for their [underfunded and overcrowded] road system?

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^ I think the notion that we need more and more and more money for schools has become in us something on the order of a screaming compulsion.

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^I'm afraid I disagree on that. I totally understand where you're coming from, but I think that education is important to all of us, not just those with kids.

That's like saying mass transit should be funded by those who ride mass transit; if that were the case, we'd have even worse transit in FL.

But even if one doesn't have kids, those children--in overcrowded portables sharing books--are our future.

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By Joe Newman | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted April 19, 2005

Gov. Jeb Bush's big plan to rein in the state's out-of-control growth could hinge on whether Central Florida's leaders have the political will to impose nearly $1 billion in new local taxes.

Orange County residents could be asked to pay the lion's share of the expected local tax increase -- about $558 million a year -- according to a Senate report released late last week.

Among the new taxes residents could see is a 1 cent sales tax to pay for transit improvements, a 1 cent sales tax to pay for a wide range of growth needs and a half-cent sales tax to pay for schools. And, depending on where they live, residents could pay 1 cent to 6 cents more a gallon in added gas taxes.

"It's a double-edged sword," said Kriss Vallese, a spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Counties. "To give counties the abilities to try and do something -- that's positive.

"On the other side of that -- whether local elected officials will do that at risk to themselves -- is the question."

It's all part of Bush's plan to put billions of dollars during the coming 10 years into new roads, schools and water projects.

The governor wants voters statewide to approve $8.5 billion in state bonds in a special November referendum, while also calling on local governments to approve more than $4 billion a year in new local taxes.

If the Legislature approves Bush's plan, most of those local taxes could, for the first time, be increased or implemented without voter approval. But on Monday, a House committee revised its version of the growth-management bill and did not remove the referendum requirement for local-option sales and gas taxes.

That puts the House and Senate growth-management bills on a collision course. A compromise would have to be worked out before the measure could become law.

For a state that is adding 1,000 residents a day and already has a $35 billion backlog of unbuilt roads, schools and utilities, doing nothing is hardly an appealing option.

Department of Transportation Secretary Jose Abreu said statistics show that delays on Florida's major roadways are growing by an average of 6 percent each year, while the number of miles traveled by residents is increasing 4 percent each year.

The state will never get a handle on its gridlock if it doesn't find new money for roads, Abreu said.

"If you keep doing things the way you've always done them, you're going to keep getting the same results," he said. "We're not saying it's the cure to all evils, but it goes a long, long way."

But has the frustration with clogged roads and crowded schools reached a point that residents will accept higher taxes?

"I don't think Orange County is going do it," Commissioner Teresa Jacobs said. "Our citizens have already spoken."

Just a little more than two years ago, Orange County voters rejected a sales-tax increase that would have paid for a slew of road improvements.

Jacobs said she doesn't know how the County Commission could raise taxes on its own after the defeat of the Mobility 20/20 referendum in 2003.

"I don't think it's realistic that there's this pool of tax revenue out there waiting to be seized by local governments," Jacobs said.

Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty was noncommittal Monday.

"I'm not prepared today to say that I would support a tax increase," Crotty said. "What I'm telling you today is that I'm prepared to analyze the legislation."

A better option, Crotty said, would be to establish a surcharge on rental cars that could be used to pay for roads. Orange officials are lobbying to get the rental fee included in the growth-management legislation, Crotty said. But they have unsuccessfully lobbied the Legislature for the surcharge for years and have run into opposition from the tourism industry.

Osceola County Chairman Paul Owen also questions whether his board would raise sales or gas taxes. Last year, voters in Osceola rejected a sales-tax increase to help pay for new schools. He says the message from that failed vote and the defeat of Mobility 20/20 comes across loud and clear.

"I'm not willing to override the voters' preference," Owen said.

Some critics say the governor has done nothing more than propose a short-term fix -- and one that doesn't fully address the scope of Florida's problems.

Instead of identifying a new source of money to pay for growth or redirecting an existing source, such as real-estate taxes, Bush is essentially taking a loan that doesn't come close to covering the state's $35 billion backlog.

The centerpiece of Bush's proposed growth-management plan is a vow to hold the line on new development unless local governments show they can pay for the services needed to support growth.

That approach has its critics as well.

"There's this misconception out there that we'll build our way out of gridlock, and you absolutely can't do that," said Lesley Blackner, a land-use attorney and slow-growth advocate.

She said she's skeptical of Bush's motives.

"The developers don't want to pay for it [growth], so they're going to ask taxpayers to pay for it," Black- ner said. "It really avoids the big question: whether the citizenry wants the growth to begin with."

Bush's growth-management plan faces more committee hearings this week in the Senate and the House and could come up for a vote next week.

It's likely to have support in both houses. Senate President Tom Lee has decried the state's backlog of unbuilt roads and schools.

"This is a core function of government," Lee said. "This is not the expansion of some entitlement or some controversial program that serves a segment of the population. This is an economic-development issue.

"If Republicans are pro-economic development, pro-business and pro-property rights, we ought to be willing to put money into the infrastructure that lays the foundation for those principles."

Tallahassee Bureau Chief John Kennedy and Sean Mussenden of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Joe Newman can be reached at 407-420-6140 or [email protected]

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Well this plan will fail miserably if it hinges on metro Orlando residents voting to tax themselves an extra $558 million a year. Thinking this is a possibility is just as crazy as thinking building only new roads, will solve traffic congestion.

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First lesson of politician school:

In order to get any bill passed, just add "for the children" to the end.

They won't get a vote for a tax increase until they fix the budget for what money they already get. If you want more money for schools and roads, start cutting somewhere else. The populous isn't the government's personal bank account that they can tap at any time because they have failed to keep their budgets in the past.

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^A great many cruelties have been inflicted on our society "for the children".

lol

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School should be paid by people with children only.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

And policing should only be paid for by the victims of crime, right?

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Transportation secretary pushes highway bill

Senate passes version that could lead to Jacksonville seeing $17 million for construction projects.

By TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS, The Times-Union

Jacksonville could see $17 million for highway construction projects from a $295 billion highway bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

The bill, which has been delayed for a year, was passed on the heels of a visit to Jacksonville by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta Tuesday morning, during which he stopped by the Jacksonville Port Authority's Blount Island terminal to push the legislation.

Read the rest here

________________________________________________________________________________

________________

Jacksonville could see $17 million for highway construction projects from a $295 billion highway bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

I hope that number is more like $17 Billion!

I looks like this bill is going to happen. I can't believe they're not addressing mass transit options over more interstates. Again, the bullet train was ahead of its time, but localized city mass transit is well overdue. Don't destroy Florida's natural beauty by supporting sprawl with more highways and interchanges.

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This bill is being sponsered by the Federal government, not the state, thus only $17 million, out of $295 billion. I-795 (9B), another I-95 access road for JIA, and the I-95/Clark Rd Interchange, is what the funds, from this bill, will be used for.

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This bill is being sponsered by the Federal government, not the state, thus only $17 million, out of $295 billion.  I-795 (9B), another I-95 access road for JIA, and the I-95/Clark Rd Interchange, is what the funds, from this bill, will be used for.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

ANOTHER access road for Jax Int'l Airport??? Why does that airport need another access road, when Orl Int'l Airport is getting NO additional access roads, yet it's now the largest (traveler capacity) in the state of FL? I can guarantee, Orlando will see NONE of this new money for Freeways/Light rail...Not if Jax politicians in Tallahassee get their way.

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This bill is being sponsered by the Federal government, not the state, thus only $17 million, out of $295 billion. I-795 (9B), another I-95 access road for JIA, and the I-95/Clark Rd Interchange, is what the funds, from this bill, will be used for.

Is 9A, once completed, going to be renamed I-295? I guess it should be. Maybe I-295 East (east of 95) and I-295 West (WEST OF 95)??

9B (I-795) will be a nice addition.

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^I've wondered that too. It makes sense to rename the whole loop to 295. It'd be kinda confusing otherwise...

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Once the entire highway complies with interstate standards (appropriate shoulder and lane widths, signage, etc.), 9A will be named I-295.

This is speculation, but since ordinary north/south/east/west directions are confusing on a circular road, they could use terms like inner and outer loop as is used on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in the DC metro area. "Inner loop" refers to the travel lanes in the clockwise direction and "outer loop" the counterclockwise.

Related Urbanplanet.org topic:

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