When I joined City Council, I made a simple commitment: put Jacksonville residents first. During my time in office, I have worked tirelessly to keep that promise from passing landmark public safety bills to fighting to reduce burdens on Jacksonville residents.
Last May, I opposed the proposal to double the gas tax to extend, expand and enhance a wasteful Skyway monorail that leads nowhere. At that time I said, “The regressive nature of the gas tax is unavoidable. What is avoidable is imposing the greatest tax burden on those who can least afford it.”
The gas tax hike passed last spring and again in December put special interests before Jacksonville residents, plain and simple. Instead, the city should find efficiencies in its budget, fully utilize existing federal government funding, and create a comprehensive plan to fund the right infrastructure challenges.
Raising taxes to fund multimillion-dollar boondoggles is not responsible, it’s the exact opposite. It’s reckless, hurts our long-term economy, and harms middle and working-class families the most. Florida will receive about $19 billion in additional infrastructure funding from the $1.2 trillion bill passed in Washington. Followed by another $171 million of COVID funds Jacksonville will receive in May, and there is more than $100 billion in available discretionary funding the city can compete for to construct projects.
To put this into real-life terms, it is similar to your neighborhood association receiving a sudden influx of cash from the federal government, but still insists on increasing your property assessment. If anything, your property assessment should be lowered to compensate for the influx of cash.
Since the increase in the gas tax will be collected over a 30-year period but spent all upfront, it is much like receiving a new credit card and then immediately maxing it out. But not to worry, you have 30 years to pay it off, but have no additional spending power during that timeframe (the city has maxed out its local option gas tax).
The city is awash in your hard-earned public cash and, of late, is oftentimes struggling to prioritize where to spend it. We need to be smarter about priorities and revenues, not immediately rush to raise taxes.
Higher costs of goods are significantly affecting Floridians, and economists project high inflation well into 2022. With prices for everyday goods rising more than they have in the past 20 years we must do better to get government costs under control and help families.
Repealing the gas tax hike would have been a step in the right direction, which is why I sponsored legislation to repeal the gas tax hike that became effective on Jan. 1, 2022. While some involved in Jacksonville politics hope you will not remember they called doubling the gas tax a “huge policy priority” and pushed for its passage, they cannot escape the reality that their actions made life more expensive.
The gas tax increase is simply exacerbating the increased costs families are already feeling with workforce and supply chain shortages that make everything more expensive, starting with energy costs as we have already seen in our rising JEA bills. The average Floridian is paying 66 percent more for a gallon of gas than they were one year ago. It is therefore critical that the Florida Legislature support and pass Governor DeSantis’ proposal to suspend the state gas tax.
This will provide relief to families and businesses, especially those in Jacksonville who saw their gas prices go up on Jan. 1 due to the doubling of our local option gas tax.
LeAnna Cumber, a transportation consultant, represents Jacksonville City Council District 5
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Guest column: Legislature must suspend state gas tax