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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May 28, 201412:00 PM EST

No debate as gas tax extension cruises

by: David Chapman

For the months leading to Tuesday, Stephen Joost was an outspoken opponent to extending Jacksonville’s 6-cent gas tax.

The longtime council member laid out his reasons — a dwindling revenue source, better vehicle efficiencies and more — many times to many groups.

But when the vote was up, he said nothing, nor did any other council member.

The heavily debated bill passed 16-1, an overwhelming margin to extend the tax through 2036. Joost was the lone vote of opposition.

He said afterward he knew there was no point to again argue his side.

“The die was cast,” he said. “Being on council for seven years, you get a feeling.”

Minds were made up, he said, after support for his stance began “crumbling as the weeks went on.”

On the opposite side of the vote, council President Bill Gulliford said he felt some accomplishment with the decision because it was a “worthwhile effort” important for the community.

Gulliford introduced the bill in December and stumped for its passage, saying the projects funded by using the revenue source would help create jobs at a time when interest rates, material and labor costs are low.

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 they 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.

Before the vote, more than a dozen people, including U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and former Mayor Jake Godbold, spoke on the issue. The majority favored the extension.

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

Brown for some time has said he is against extending the tax and, like Joost, has asked why the debate needs to be rushed when it doesn’t expire until 2016. His position also falls in line with his longtime anti-tax stance.

The mayor could sign the bill into law, allow it to pass without his signature or veto the measure. If he did the latter, the council would need 13 votes, a supermajority, as an override.

David DeCamp, Brown’s spokesman, said the administration will now review it in full before any determination is made.

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