JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville city leaders on Tuesday voted 5-13 against repealing the implementation of a six-cent gas tax increase, which is set to go into effect in January.
That gas tax, which was approved by city leaders in May, doubles the current tax from 6 cents a gallon to 12 cents. The new gas tax could raise over $960 million in the next 30 years. That money will be used for transportation and other projects.
Mayor Lenny Curry was in favor of the gas tax hike. He said in a statement:
“Thank you to the City Council for joining me in a commitment to every neighborhood and every family to make our city better for the next generation. That means investing in our parks, roadways, and in the infrastructure that makes our city work. I believe in keeping promises. To ensure that happens, we have identified the revenue needed to make these investments. We were all are elected to make the tough choices, and that’s what it takes to build a better Jacksonville.”
Even though gas prices appear to be dropping, some Jacksonville residents say they’re still feeling the pinch at the pump. John Kelly says he regularly uses an app to find the best prices around town.
“Gas prices are higher than ever for everybody. I fill up probably three times a month,” Kelly said. “Probably $150.”
Steven Fisher agrees some people must make the tough decision, at times.
“You’ve got to depend on if you’re going to pay your rent, you’re going to buy food, pay for your kid, or are you going to have transportation to go to work,” Fisher said. “It’s rough right now.”
That’s why Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber introduced the bill to repeal the gas tax increase.
“If we’re going to raise taxes, then we need to make sure we’re doing it as a last resort,” Cumber said.
Cumber had said not only will the gas tax increase make people’s lives more expensive, she believes if there’s a real emergency in the years to come, the city’s hands will be tied. By “emergency,” she gave examples of a hurricane or bridge repair.
“The plan is to bond out that whole 30 years of tax in the first 10 years,” Cumber said. “So, it’s essentially like getting a new credit card, maxing out that credit card, and then saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to pay it over the next 30 years.’ You have no more ability to use that credit card in an emergency.”
Ultimately, a majority voted to keep the tax increase in place.
“I think it is woefully unfair to debate and discuss this, then face the same questions, what, six months later? Over the promise of future funding,” said Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson during Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
Of the tax money raised, $350 million would go toward road projects, including $4.3 million for Philips Highway.
Other planned projects included $129 million for drainage improvements with $28 million of that going for rehab and maintenance. $447 million will be used for various transit projects which could go for a new ferry and dock.
One of the most controversial things with the gas tax is funding for the Skyway. $247 million will go to make improvements there and actually make it a system of self-driving cars.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is also looking at suspending the state gas tax for several months but that will take legislative action which could happen next month.