This morning, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, delivered his first state of the county address where he laid out his plans for the region after taking office late last year.
One of those plans was calling on voters to support a referendum on a tax increase. This time to fund transportation, where the problem is not funding, but a lack of poor planning at the various departments (story HERE).
We’re still prepared however, to raise taxes in a region that is experiencing a housing crisis and is currently the home to some of the lowest wages in the nation.
There are also questions over the allocation of funds. When the Mayor’s predecessor left office last year,the county was firm financial ground. There was even a $300 million dollar plan in place for infrastructure needs like theses. It was the reward for years of fiscal responsibility.
We did that without raising taxes on our citizens.
Now I can see the chess moves here. Voters can easily be persuaded with these kinds of referendums. After all, its only one penny right? In fact, just a couple of years ago Orange County passed a tax increase for construction of school buildings.
But the problems with Transportation go far beyond building a few more classrooms.
LYNX has had a leadership problem over the past few years with executives coming and going. SunRail ridership numbers remain underwhelming, as communities begin to accept fiscal responsibility for the commuter rail system. Economic development around the various stations isn’t what we thought it would be.
And then there is Ultimate I4, arguably the biggest headache in the minds of Orlando residents at this time.
Residents say it takes them hours to get to work with the current state of public transportation.
How is more tax revenue going to help there? More buses that don’t run properly? More empty trains with no options for riders to complete their commute once they get to their stops?
Then there is the trend. One penny this year, another penny next year. It will continue unless we say “no”.
The truth is it doesn’t matter how much we raise taxes if there aren’t plans in place to find real solutions. The county plans on holding workshops and getting citizen input, but we give budget presentations every year and acknowledge challenges only to do nothing.
Let’s try to find another way of fixing our transportation problem, instead of continuing to treat the residents of Orange County like an ATM.
If this does come up on the ballot we should vote “No” and ask our county leaders to do better.