Duval voters opposed to gas tax hike, Skyway spending

The University of North Florida poll finds support for septic tax phaseout plans.

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Duval County residents are opposed to a bill to increasing the city’s gas tax but if there is one, they don’t want the money spent on the Downtown Skyway, according to a poll released May 18 by the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida.

Mayor Lenny Curry and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority want to increase the gas tax from 6 cents to 12 cents per gallon to pay for nearly $1 billion in infrastructure projects. City Council is debating the legislation, Ordinance 2021-0223.

Asked whether they support or oppose the bill, the poll found 58% of respondents either strongly or somewhat oppose it.

However, asked about using the increase to free up money for septic tank phaseout projects, 68% said they approved, either strongly or somewhat.

“This is a somewhat tricky situation,” said Michael Binder, UNF Public Opinion Research Lab director, in a news release with the poll.

“The bills are structured so that the septic tank plan depends on freed-up funds from the local option gas tax, but the data shows voters want the improvements without the additional gas tax.”

Respondents also were asked about spending on infrastructure projects being debated by the Council, including the Downtown Skyway modernization and the Emerald Trail park system.

When asked how much money should be spent on improving the Skyway, 34% said none, 21% said less than $190 million and 21% said $229 million. The transportation authority wanted $379 million for the project, but that was cut by $132 million at the Council Committee of the Whole meeting May 12.

Asked about spending on the Emerald Trail, 54% said at least $150 million should be allocated to funding it, with 23% indicating even more should be spent. 

Council member Matt Carlucci’s amendment to take the $132 million removed from the Skyway budget and reallocate it to Emerald Trail likely will be the first for a vote at the next Committee of the Whole meeting May 19.

“An enormous majority, 87%, think that less money should be allocated to the Skyway than the original proposal, many of whom think the number should be zero,” Binder said. The Emerald Trail fared somewhat better, but voters aren’t terribly excited about spending money on either project.”

Council President Tommy Hazouri said he wants a first vote on the full bill May 19 with a final vote May 26.

More poll issues

The poll also asked about other headlines in the news.

• Voters are split on the city removing Confederate statues from public spaces and the renaming of public schools named after Confederates. On removing statues, the poll found 51% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support it and 49% strongly or somewhat oppose it. Removal was strongly supported by 72% of Democrats and strongly opposed by 65% of Republicans. On school renaming, 52% said they support it while 48% said they oppose either somewhat or strongly. Renaming was strongly supported by 72% of Democrats and strongly opposed by 63% of Republicans.

• Voters are divided on the job of President Joe Biden, with 49% saying they approve either strongly or somewhat, 46% disapproving and 5% indicating they did not know. Among Democrats, 61% said they strongly approve while 78% of Republicans say they strongly disapprove.

• Gov. Ron DeSantis found 50% approval, 46% disapproval and 4% did not know. The poll found that 68% of Democrats strongly disapprove of DeSantis, while 76% of Republicans strongly approve. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried garnered 37% approval, 17% disapproval and 46% did not know.

• Mayor Lenny Curry’s job approval was 48%, up from 42% in December. The poll found that 43% said they disapprove, while 9% said they did not know. Approval of Sheriff Mike Williams was at 50%, with 30% disapproving and 20% indicating they do not know. Jacksonville City Council had 34% approval with 23% saying they didn’t know. State Attorney Melissa Nelson received 38% approval, 18% disapproval and 43% did not know.

• In the race for Jacksonville mayor, Democrat Donna Deegan leads with 19% followed by Republican Matt Carlucci with 18%. Deegan has not entered the mayor’s race while Carlucci has. Other notables that have not entered the race include Republican Daniel Davis with 6% and former Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown with 14%. Overall, the leader is “someone else” with 20%.

• Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s found 49% approval and 28% disapproval. His new head coach, Urban Meyer, found 45% approval, 13% disapproval and 42% didn’t know. Jaguars No. 1 draft pick quarterback Trevor Lawrence found 45% approval, 7% disapproval and 48% didn’t know. 

Meyer and Lawrence have yet to make their NFL debut.

The poll of 1,263 Duval County registered voters was conducted May 11-16. The margin of error is 2.8%.