TAB Opposes Sales Tax Increase
Staff requests direction on implementation of a “Charter County and Regional Transportation Tax”
On Tuesday, May 1st, the Palm Beach County Commission will be considering a $100 Million, 1/2% increase (raising existing 6% to 6.5%) in the sales tax to fund transportation related spending. The Administrator is requesting board feedback on putting this proposed tax on the November ballot, and the Commission must give approval prior to the August 10th ballot language deadline. A good description can be found in Jennifer Sorentrue’s article Palm Beach County voters may be asked to increase sales tax by half-cent for roads, transportation.
The agenda item is 4A2 – and it falls early in the morning’s schedule – after special presentations and the Consent Agenda, and an item related to the Supervisor of Elections. The agenda can be found here and the agenda item background here.
The County Administrator’s rationale is as follows:
- The tax will generate over $100 million annually
- It will partially shift transportation funding to ‘tourists’
- State Statute allows for the tax and PBC is one of the few of the 67 counties that don’t charge this sales tax.
Why now? Is it because our economy languishes and home values aren’t increasing significantly so there are revenue pressures? Is it because the price of gas has become so high that we – tourist and resident alike, are driving less or boating less? Is it because the administration doesn’t want to have to account for how they spend – when they have no productivity and performance benchmarks nor measurements against those benchmarks?
TAB has issues with this proposed sales tax increase:
- This is a tax increase. It affects most purchases and services. And unlike the fire/rescue sales surtax proposed to the Commission in 2010, it makes no claims that it will be revenue neutral nor is it accompanied by any decrease in ad valorem
- This tax would be permanent. Unlike the recently expired school sales tax, this tax is not for a specific set of projects nor does it have an end date.
- This will be a revenue windfall for the county. We remain in an economy close to recession. Inflation is already here in our fuel and food prices, and will continue to increase.
- There is no accountability. The spending isn’t subject to any board, nor does the county have any performance or productivity benchmarks.
Residents, business owners and tourists alike pay ad valorem taxes. The resident or business owner pays it directly. The ‘tourist’ pays it indirectly. Residents, businesses and tourists pay for fuel. The Palm Beach County Revenue Manual lists several taxes that are geared towards transportation already:
- Local option gas tax: 6 cents on every gallon of gas for exactly the same purpose as this proposed except debt service
- The ‘ninth’ cent tax, 1 cent tax on every gallon of gas that lists all the same purpose
- County Gas Tax: 1 cent on every gallon of gas to be used on transportation related areas
In addition – Palm Tran already has fees, and builders have ‘road’ impact fees.
At the April 27, 2012 Commissioners’ workshop on the Internal Audit Department, the Commissioners, whether rhetorically or not, questioned the lack of any kind of productivity or performance measurements in the county. Asking the voters’ to hand over more of their hard-earned money to an open-ended, unspecific, windfall tax is unconscionable.
Voters are unlikely to approve the proposed ballot amendment. Please tell your commissioners to reject this request by the County Administration and not put it on the ballot in November.