ORANGE COUNTY, Florida. – With the new year comes renewed pressure for Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings to pursue the passage of a 1-cent transportation sales tax in the November 2022 election.
“I intend to launch the initiative to put the infrastructure sales tax on the November 2022 ballot,” Demings said.
Currently, the sales tax in Orange County is 6.5%, if passed, the one-cent sales tax would increase that number to 7.5% and bring in $600 million annually to the county. , according to Demings.
[TRENDING: WATCH: SpaceX launches Transporter-3 mission, sticks sonic boom-generating landing | Shopping plaza revamp bringing new stores, restaurants to Altamonte Springs | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]
In January 2020, Demings was lobbying for support for a 1-cent sales tax to address transportation issues. Two months later, the push stopped at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Demings said now that the economy is rebounding he is considering the initiative again. He said half of the money from the levy would come from tourists, but for that to be successful there needs to be education on how it will benefit all residents.
“Each of our residents who will be able to vote for this needs to see themselves in the narrative of history as to how they are going to benefit,” Demings said.
Residents like Alma Gonzalez, who is visually impaired and has an autistic son. Both rely solely on Lynx, Lynx Access and Sunrail to get around Central Florida. Gonzalez said his normal commute to work from Kissimmee to Disney Springs takes about three hours round trip. On weekends and late at night, she is sometimes forced to pay up to $38 for a rideshare. She said that equates to about two hours of work.
“They need more budget for us. For me, as far as my job goes, I have to be on time obviously,” Gonzalez said. “If it helps us with transportation, that would be great. I can go home and not spend $38 on a Lyft.
The mayor said the money generated would completely revamp Central Florida’s transit systems, from Sunrail to Lynx, and create a multi-modal transportation system that would get people off the roads and reduce traffic. This is where Hartley Hinds comes into the story. He works for a company that provides lab results throughout central Florida, and he’s on the road a lot.
“The other night I went to see my daughter in Tampa, turned back two hours later, it was too much,” Hinds said. “I think it makes sense, to have more buses on the road, which provides more opportunities to get around without a car and not having to drive.”
He is one of the Orange County commuters who spends an average of 46 hours in traffic each year, according to 2020 data.
“You see central Florida is getting denser and denser, the population is racing, and I think having decent public transportation would be nice.”
Demings explained more of his vision.
“The system will likely use emerging technologies in terms of connectivity with commuter rail, light rail, bus, rapid transit – all of that will be part of this very robust system,” Demings added.
The mayor has already held more than 200 community meetings and public events to garner support for the initiative before it was put on hold during the pandemic. News 6 asked the mayor why now was the right time.
“Our community is still growing. The region grows by almost a trickle of about 1,500 new people each week. Orange County, nearly 1,000 new residents per week. It looks like this is going to continue for the foreseeable future,” Demings added. “If we don’t do anything – frankly, the amount of time you’re going to be sitting in traffic getting around is going to increase dramatically and quickly.”
Demings said the County Board of Commissioners will first need to approve putting the 1-cent sales tax on the ballot. The mayor anticipates this to happen in March or April.
Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All Rights Reserved.