JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While next Tuesday's election is called a primary, several races will be settled that day, including the fate of Duval County Referendum No. 1 -- asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay down the $2.7 billion deficit in Jacksonville employee pensions.
Television commercials and full-page ads in the newspaper supporting "Yes! for Jacksonville" have cost the political action committee supporting the tax nearly $1.2 million. With one week left in the campaign, the committee has about $300,000 left in the bank.
The "Just Vote No Trust" has raised only $2,106, but opponents have used free media to raise questions about the plan.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry held another rally in support of the tax Monday, featuring Republicans and Democrats, including his predecessor, former Mayor John Peyton.
"I think this is the most painless remedy," Peyton said. "And I commend the mayor for taking a stand on this."
Peyton had to deal with escalating pension contributions during his eight-year administration and authored a plan in 2008 that had employees take a 2 percent pay cut and changed the benefit package to try and get control of the mounting debt.
"We had another proposal on the table that Mayor Brown refused to adopt," Peyton said. "The clock ran out on us. I was disappointed in the decision. Had he embraced that, we would've saved untold millions."
While former Democratic mayors Tommy Hazouri and Jake Godbold and former Democratic Sheriff Nat Glover are supporting the tax, support is not universal. Last week, the executive committee of the Duval County Democratic Party came out against Referendum No. 1, and state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, spoke out Monday.
"It is the mayor’s job and the council's job to come up with an appropriate plan, and I don't think they've done that," Gibson said.
Early voting continues through Sunday, with all precincts open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 30.