Here are some serious post-town hall questions about Orange County’s proposed transportation tax

UPDATED: With responses from the county below.

Earlier this week, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, along with other local officials, hosted a town hall to hear concerns about transportation in the region from the public, ahead of what could be a ballot proposal to raise taxes next year to meet those needs.

I like the Mayor (and his wife, Congresswoman Val Demings), but this proposal is bad news and the town hall didn’t tackle any real policy savvy questions. We know the region has transportation problems, but the issue is whether we should be asking our citizens to pay more when we have an affordable housing crisis and problems with low wages.

Here are some serious questions I have after the transportation town hall, regarding a possible sales tax hike.

Where is the study that says tourist will pay 51% of the tax?: Promoting a sales tax while telling the residents they won’t be paying for it, is a popular tactic among politicians. I didn’t see a cited study in the presentation under that estimate. It’s a pretty random number to pull out of the sky and the public should see where it comes from.

OC Response: Visit Orlando engaged with PFM Group Consulting earlier this year to developed the, Incidence of Orange County’s Sales Tax. In this study, PFM used three methodologies to estimate the contribution of nonresidents and tourists to sales tax collections in Orange County.  See attachment on page 15 and you will locate the conclusion of the study which states that non-residents and tourists contribute more than half of all sales taxes collected in Orange County. This means that of each $1 of sales taxes collected in Orange County at least 51% are paid for by non-residents.  In Orange County $3.1 billion in sales tax was collected in 2018.  Of this amount tourists paid at least 51% or $1.57 billion of these taxes.  Thus, for each household in Orange County during 2018, tourists visiting Orange County paid $3,012 in sales tax.

How can you guarantee Orange County tax dollars won’t fund needs in Seminole and Osceola Counties?: The majority of our transportation initiatives are done with the tri county area in mind. Will Orange County be paying for new buses and services that won’t be helping them?

What are we going do about stable leadership at LYNX?: The organization has had problems with it’s CEOs (stories HERE and HERE). Last night’s townhall had an interim manager leading the way. Are we going to turnover potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to an agency with no proven leadership?

What does the County Comptroller think?: Phil Diamond is a pretty thorough and honest Comptroller. What does he think? The Comptroller serves as the checks and balances of county resources. If he has an opinion, we need to hear it.

Can we get a projected spending plan ahead of the vote?: Make no mistake, this is a campaign. We need a platform to hold it’s candidate accountable. After the conclusion of these town halls, can the Mayor give us a byline spending plan ahead of the vote?

OC Response: The proposed spending plan will in fact be presented after the community Town Hall meetings and the Mayor has mentioned this several times. The County plans to hold many Town Halls all throughout the County before presenting a proposed spending plan. Community input is needed before a plan can be presented.  

These are actual and honest concerns I have. If I were still doing news everyday, these are questions I would ask him in the gaggle.

And it’s not just the Mayor that needs to provide these answers, its the County Commissioners that will be voting in favor of putting the proposal on the ballot. They need to explain why they would be voting to put a tax increase on the ballot without as much upfront transparency as possible.

Let’s get some of these questions answered.

1 Comment

  1. Mayor & Commissioners, NO SALES TAX!!
    …..I think we can all stipulate that we Desire an effective, and useful form of Bus Transit in Orange County. What we differ on is what system must that be? **This County Board has not submitted dedicated specifics on what they intend to do with the “speculated” $169 Million Dollars, you would get from the 1%, ….and yet, you seek our Opinions on a Request that carries NO Details,…No Specifics!!….It is Unfair and questionable, as to why that you “seek” our Input, without giving us the considerations of your Intentions with OUR money…..We know you are going to spend it,….BUT on What, and Where?…….*I would suspect that if you were Sincere about receiving (Citizen) input, you would give us some specifics and details, instead of vague Generalities??

    ….. Lynx has shown itself to fail, time after time, year after year, and yet Government keeps “Throwing” more Good money after Bad money. A $21 Million dollar deficit this year from a Monopoly “Entity” that has No (other Bus), Competition is a CRY for Help,…and yet all that Orange County wants to do is ask the People for more money. LYNX has had many other deficits over the years, and has been “salvaged” by increased contributions by this County as well as other Government Agencies. In other-words, by (Always), Dipping into the Tax Payers Pockets, regardless of what level of Government is doing the “Dipping”. I view Lynx as the inevitable (Dry-Land), version of the “Titanic” on Wheels. No one wants to admit to their failure in designing this Agency, and it is easy to conceal their inabilities, by the perpetual “Taking” of more and more money from the Tax-Payers…..In the past several Local Politicians have stated that one of the reasons for Lynx’s “failure” is their inability to have a “Dedicated source of Funding”!!!……..REALLY……….What is more dedicated then the Wallets of the American People???

    …… In a Private Company, you would never find such a “Dedicated Source of Monies”, and Bankruptcy, would and should have been the inevitable destiny for such a “Sinking Ship”!!

    ….As for Sun-Rail, they will continue to FAIL, as you cannot have an effective Rail-System, if it does not link to an effective BUS System!! No-one wants to take a Train, if the end-result is that they still need to use their Car….. $27 Million dollar deficit in it’s first year, and at least $45 Million dollar deficit this (6th) year is a “Screaming Cry” for Euthanasia!………..YET all our Elected Representatives want to do is keep reaching into our Pockets!!

    ….Respectfully, All of you OWE the People a Better set of reasons (Not Generalities),as to why you want to take more of our money, when you know some (or most) of this money is going to “keep afloat” a “Bus Carcass” that should have had it’s “Funeral Services” years ago,………AND….. A Train system that was established far-too Prematurely, just to help “create” a False sense of “Legacy” for some overly-ambitious Politicians!!

    ….I hope to attend your next “Meeting” on October 3rd, in District #5, but after 30 years-plus of dealing with Elected-Officials, I just cannot seem to Dis-spell that BAD taste of Disregard , Apathy, & Arrogance, that comes with these meetings and that fills the Atmosphere with Hazardous delusions.

    Thank You,……..Thomas Pastore / Vietnam Veteran / USMC……..Still searching for the Country that embraces the wording and the practices of the United States Constitution.

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