City Council votes to double gas tax to address infrastructure needs

VIDEO: The Jacksonville City Council during a special meeting voted to double Duval County’s gas tax, raising it from 6 cents to 12 cents a gallon.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council during a special meeting Wednesday voted 14-5 to double Duval County’s gas tax, raising it from 6 cents to 12 cents a gallon.

The $960 million the tax is expected to generate over 30 years will fund several transportation and infrastructure projects, including:

  • The Emerald Trail project, which will add around 30 miles of trails around the core city.
  • Money for direct contracting for small businesses.
  • And funds to overhaul the Skyway.

DOCUMENT: Itemized list of infrastructure projects | MORE: Mayor Curry, council members launch gas-tax/infrastructure plan as ‘Jobs for Jax’

“With all these things, we’re gonna be the Bold New City of the South, and not the Old City of the South,” Councilmember Matt Carlucci said.

News4Jax did the math on what a typical driver will pay with the doubled gas tax.

With the average commute in Jacksonville about 36 miles round trip:

  • A small fuel-efficient sedan driver would pay less than $14.50 a year in extra fuel costs
  • The average car or SUV would pay around $21.12 more a year
  • And big trucks would spend just under $36 more a year

To start the meeting, council members presented and debated amendments to the bill. Councilmember LeAnna Cumber, who voted against the tax, introduced an amendment that would require the money generated by the gas tax to be used on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, meaning no money would be borrowed to help complete the projects.

That amendment was voted down, 15-4, with council members arguing the ability to borrow money provides flexibility and some projects need to be done as soon as possible.

Gas prices expected to increase by January of 2022

One of the longest debates involved an amendment that addressed the Skyway.

Councilmember Randy DeFoor, who voted against raising the tax, introduced an amendment that would remove Skyway rehab from the projects eligible from the eligible JTA project list.

DeFoor said she hosted a town hall meeting with over 100 people and all but two people were for the gas tax, but not a single person was for the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C), a multi-phased program aimed at converting and expanding the automated people mover into an autonomous vehicle network.

Most council members expressed the city needs to look to the future and provide better transportation solutions as downtown grows before voting down the amendment.

“When we talk about the skyway, that’s the past,” JTA CEO Nat Ford told News4Jax. “We’ve been talking about the future of downtown, the future of this community. The U2C project is the future and it needs to prepare for all of the downtown development.”

Council did vote for an amendment, 19-0, to develop a dashboard on the city’s website that will publicly display projects the city is working on with the tax money.

The final, amended bill received support from 74% of council members.

How they voted

Voted forVoted against
Aaron BowmanDanny Becton
Michael BoylanLeAnna Cumber
Matt CarlucciRandy DeFoor
Garrett DennisRory Diamond
Terrance FreemanAl Ferraro
Reggie Gaffney
Tommy Hazouri
Joyce Morgan
Sam Newby
Ju’Coby Pittman
Brenda Priestly Jackson
Ron Salem
Randy White
Kevin Carrico

The gas tax increase proposal is a hot-button issue, particularly what the money would be spent on.

Ahead of Wednesday’s special forum, the City Council on Tuesday heard from members of the public during a town hall meeting at City Hall.

“This gas tax would focus on helping underserved communities,” said Carnell Oliver, who’s for the tax increase. “The Emerald Trail would create opportunities.”

Another benefit some see to the gas tax increase would be that it could free up funds for the long-overdue phase-out of septic tanks in several underserved areas of Jacksonville.

City Council has approved amendments to include $132 million for the Emerald Trail and to set aside $250 million in gas tax spending for direct contracting to local small, emerging or disadvantaged businesses.

“We’ve got subdivisions going up which means the cost of developing infrastructure is going up,” one person told the Council during the town hall. “You’ve got to pay for that stuff.”

Council voted 16-2 to trim $132 million from the bill that would have been allocated to expand the JTA’s Skyway. The bill still includes $247 million in funding that could be used to overhaul the Skyway.

“I am a huge no today because I simply, fundamentally at my core cannot raise taxes on our people. I think they already pay too much, but I understand what this body is going to do and look forward to working with you on how we handle all this money in the future,” Councilman Rory Diamond said.

The new tax will go into effect Jan 1, 2022.

Reaction to approval of gas tax hike mixed

After the council voted to double the gas tax, News4Jax spoke with Jacksonville residents at a gas station and found the reaction to the approval of the gas tax hike was mixed.

“Well I think the prices are already high, so if we get more taxes, it’s going to be expensive for us,” said Carlos Canas.

Hurceles Tucker said: “For me, it’s not going to change anything. I’m not even going to notice it at the pump.”

“Six cents, that nothing. You’re talking 60 cents for $10′s worth of gas. That’s not anything as long as they are using for infrastructure like they say they are going to,” Jeff Rogers said.

Garold Harris said: “Six cents is already kind of high on gas tax, and now you’re going to 12 cents. Gas is already $3, so that means gas is going to $4. So it’s going to be worse on people who don’t make a lot of money.”

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.