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- 2014 - May - 28th -

City Council passes gas-tax extension with no debate

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

After five months of discussion and debate, City Council passed a bill extending the 6-cent gas tax through 2036.

The 16-1 vote came after more than a dozen people, including U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and former Mayor Jake Godbold, spoke on the issue.

But after the public comment period ended, it went straight to the ballot – no council members spoke up on the matter. That included Stephen Joost, who has been a vocal opponent and cast the lone nay vote, and council President Bill Gulliford, who introduced it in December and had been the most vocal supporter.

Afterward, Gulliford said he had pages of comments on the issue if anyone was interested, but it wasn’t necessary.

Under the extension, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority will receive 5 cents of the tax, which will be applied toward transit operations and debt repayment. The remaining 1 cent would go to the city for road maintenance and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

Authority officials have said it will bond about $100 million to start and complete a collection of road projects, with the debt repaid gradually through collection of the tax. The tax raises about $28 million a year.

Projects encompass all areas of the county on the list of road and transportation projects that was compiled in recent months between the authority and city Public Works Department.

Gulliford and other proponents have said the bill will create jobs at a time when labor and interest rates are low. Joost and opponents said extending the tax this soon wasn’t necessary, given that is a dwindling revenue source as alternative fuel use and efficiencies rise. The tax is scheduled to end in 2016.

The bill now goes to another vocal opponent: Mayor Alvin Brown.

Brown for some time has said he is against extending the tax, which falls in line with his anti-tax stance.

David DeCamp, Brown’s spokesman, said as with any piece of legislation, the administration will review it in full before any determination is made.

Brown could sign the legislation, let it pass into law without his signature or veto the measure. If he did the latter, the council would need 13 votes to override that veto.

 

dchapman@baileypub.com

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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