- 2013 - December - 12th -

Bill would extend gas tax until 2036

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

The 6-cent local option gas tax will be extended another 20 years, should legislation filed by City Council President Bill Gulliford pass.

With the expiration of the current tax set for 2016, the idea to extend — or let perish — the longstanding tax on motor fuel has been discussed for some time.

"Overall, I can't see any reason not to. We'd be the only county in Florida without it," he said.

And, with about $100 million worth of road projects in the works and needed infrastructure maintenance and improvements, he said the need is there.

"If you believe everyone's gas price is going to go down 6 cents (without it), then you also probably believe in the tooth fairy," he said.

How the 6 cents is divided between the city and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority may also change. Gulliford plans to file another bill the first week of January for a new agreement and how the money is dispersed.

Tentatively, he said 5 cents would stay with the authority for the ability to bond out road projects and improvements. The other 1 cent would go to the city, with 80 percent of that used for street maintenance and the other 20 percent used as a dedicated funding source for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. In total, the city's share could annually be about $5 million, he said.

One of Gulliford's council colleagues says the move might be premature.

John Crescimbeni said Wednesday he first wants to hear from the state attorney general on the matter. He filed a resolution approved in August seeking an opinion whether the City can impose a "new or subsequent" local option gas tax.

He said he is OK if the bill is a "parking place" and can be taken up later, but he didn't want to see it pushed through on a normal council cycle.

But, Gulliford said he "absolutely" wants it approved as soon as possible.

It has the support of the transportation authority head, too.

"The extension of a Local Option Gas Tax ensures that the JTA will continue to be a strong partner in the social and economic growth of our community through the implementation of reliable and visionary transportation and infrastructure projects," authority CEO Nathaniel Ford said in a statement.

Mayor Alvin Brown still opposes the extension of the tax.

"Taxpayers already have contributed greatly to our road system, including through the Better Jacksonville Plan," said Brown's spokesman, David DeCamp.

He said the tax is inefficient in an era of increasing fuel efficiency and the best return on taxpayers investment is finding "innovate ways" to support the transportation network.

The tentative agreement legislation Gulliford discussed also will include another transportation aspect that's been handed over to the city: the St. Johns River Ferry.

Gulliford said under the

agreement, the transportation authority would take over the service. He said the link between Mayport and Heckscher Drive is transportation and part of the highway system and under the authority would be "where it should have been all along."

"It's the right way to go," he said.

Crescimbeni, though, doesn't necessarily agree and said he hasn't heard of the idea. He serves as chairman of the ferry commission, which was established last year to operate the service after the Jacksonville Port Authority decided it would not run it anymore.

An independent commission is the way to operate and fund it, Crescimbeni said.

"We already gave an independent authority the opportunity to run it," he said. "The ferry commission is viable way to ward off any situation. Why should we reinvent that wheel?"

With council on break the rest of the year, the gas tax bill will not be heard at the committee level until mid-January.



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