JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Drivers in the River City may end up paying more at the pump so city leaders have the funds to address racial disparities in underdeveloped neighborhoods.
The idea is the brainchild of City Councilman Aaron Bowman. Bowman made the proposal at the beginning of June but hasn’t decided upon the expense.
At a finance committee meeting, members said the tax could be anywhere from one-cent to 12-cents.
Jacksonville already has a gas tax in place which costs drivers 6 cents on the dollar. By law, a gas tax cannot exceed more than 12 cents per dollar, but council can implement multiple gas taxes.
A one-cent tax implemented for underdeveloped areas would raise $5 million dollars in one year, but the tax could be as much as 12 cents.
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Supporters say the increase is justified as it would provide the city the ability to invest in communities that have been left behind in years past. However, even one of Jacksonville’s biggest civil rights advocates compared the gas tax idea to a drop in the bucket.
“It would help empower under-served communities like residents living in ZIP codes 32206 on the east, and 32209 on the northwest of the city, but we will need more than a drop in the bucket. It’s going to take a lot of money to redevelop these ravaged areas of our community,” Ben Fraizer, president of the Northwest Coalition of Jacksonville, said.
There’s also the issue of the purpose of a gas tax, as defined by law.
Florida state law requires gas tax money to be used for road construction, maintenance, and transportation facilities.
Councilmember Bowman is proposing that there is a way to get around the requirement by funneling the gas tax money into the City of Jacksonville’s general fund.
In that case, Urban Core Redevelopment Authority members could use the money where they see fit in the neglected neighborhoods, according to Bowman. Members then would have discretion as to where and when money would be spent.
Mayor Lenny Curry said he would need more information about how the gas tax funds would be used before issuing outright support for the proposal.
"I need to have a more detailed description about use, but the gas tax is a vehicle that we could use to invest in neighborhoods that have not been equitably invested and have been left behind, so I am very interested in the idea. I think it’s a positive development,” Curry said.
Residents who live in Jacksonville’s Northside are hesitant to trust too, citing more than 50 years of unfulfilled promises from the city of Jacksonville.
The city’s finance committee is in the debate now whether to send a resolution to the city council. If they do, the council will need to take another vote to pass the proposal or not.
To be approved by the city council, the resolution must pass with the majority vote plus one. That means 11 out of 19 members need to vote yes.