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- 2014 - May - 27th -
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City Council President Bill Gulliford

Gulliford: Gas tax extension can repair roads, create jobs now

By Bill Gulliford, City Council President

Our local option gas tax will expire in 2016.

On Tuesday the City Council will vote on legislation I introduced to extend it for another 20 years. Why now?

First, we have the potential to do more than $100 million in road and infrastructure improvements, but we can’t bond the work since the local option gas tax will expire soon.

If we bond the work now while interest rates are still low — but expected to rise soon — we will save money. Also, construction costs and material costs are stable.

Lastly, job creation from $100 million-plus in work would be significant for young males who are currently the most negatively impacted in the job market.

Unlike the past, 1 cent of every 6 cents collected will come to the City of Jacksonville. Of the city’s portion, 80 percent will be used for city streets and related drainage improvement and repair.

That money has historically been coming out of the general fund or borrowed.

This would provide relief to the general fund.

The other 20 percent will be used for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure construction and improvement.

There is no dedicated funding source for that presently. Jacksonville is claimed to be the sixth most-dangerous city in the country for bicyclists and third most dangerous for pedestrians.

We need to start with a planned development of a bicycle and sidewalk network throughout the city and then annually fund it.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will assume the operation of the St. Johns River Ferry and that includes funding. The ferry is a significant part of our road network, connecting the historical, recreational and commercial parts of our region.

Jacksonville is the economic engine for the area and daily, thousands of people drive from the surrounding counties to work here.

As they buy gasoline or diesel in Jacksonville, through the local option gas tax, they help to pay for the support and improvements of the roads they use. People driving through Jacksonville to other destinations also help support our roads, too, when they buy fuel here.

This illustrates it is not really a tax but instead a user fee, capturing some of those fees from people who don’t live in Jacksonville but use our roads.

The mayor and a few others are opposed to extending the local-option gas tax, but they haven’t articulated why and haven’t offered a viable alternative.

They say “don’t rush” but I think rushing is important to achieve lower costs.

Their opposition really begs the question, what kind of city do you want to live in? One that keeps up with its roads and infrastructure, or one that watches them crumble?

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