JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville City Council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to extend for 20 years a 6-cent local gasoline tax that pays for road projects and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
Proponents like former Mayor Jake Godbold said they felt vindicated after the vote.
"Jacksonville Florida needs infrastructure and it needs it now," Godbold said. "We can't kick the can down the road anymore."
The local option tax was scheduled to expire in two years. Mayor Alvin Brown and other critics have asked why there's a rush to extend the tax, but a group supporting the tax spent $17,000 on an advertising campaign urging its extension.
Private donations funded the commercials that flooded local airwaves over the holiday weekend. The group Building a Better Future said the gas tax needs to continue to fund essential services in Jacksonville.
On Tuesday, various groups showed up to support keeping the tax extension, including backers of the St. Johns River Ferry at Mayport.
"The ferry is more than just a way to cross the St. Johns River," said Lindsey Brock with Friends of the St. Johns Ferry. "(It's a) vital part of the transportation system for Jacksonville."
Another group backing the gas tax was First Coast bicyclists, who showed up with what they call a "ghost bike." It had all the names of people killed on Jacksonville's roadways while riding bikes.
They cyclists said Jacksonville needs more bike lanes and sidewalks to keep people on bikes from getting hit by cars — and the gas tax helps pay for them.
"That's our primary concern is safety in Florida; safety in Jacksonville is awful," said Mark Atkins of North Florida Bicycle Club. "And it's not going to get better unless there's funding for infrastructure and safety."
Now the legislation moves to the mayor's office for his signature, but the mayor has had reservations about signing off on the tax extension, questioning if it's the best way to spend tax dollars.
In a statement to Channel 4, the mayor's office didn't give an indication of whether Brown will sign the legislation, simply saying "we will follow our standard process to decide how to act on that legislation."
Councilman Steven Joost, who was the only council member to speak out against the extension before Tuesday's vote, cast the only vote against the extension. He said earlier that there was no hurry to pass the measure, but he also said the current method is unfair and outdated.
"The only thing you are doing is creating a 20-year issue that is not fair," Joost said. "All of us that are buying unleaded are paying for the roads while all of those with electric and hybrid and alternative fuels are not paying for the roads, yet we all use them."
If Brown decides to veto the measure, the City Council could would need 13 votes to override the veto.
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