Mayor Jerry Demings proposes 1 cent sales tax to fund transportation initiative

Speech covers transportation, affordable housing, living wage

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings delivered his first State of the County address Thursday, proposing a one cent sales tax increase to fund transportation.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings delivered his first State of the County address Thursday, proposing a one cent sales tax increase to fund transportation. He also presented his plan to address the need for more affordable housing.

During the address at the Orange County Convention Center, Demings focused on current and future initiatives in the county, including transportation, affordable housing and better wages. 

Demings proposed a one cent sales tax referendum to fully fund a transportation system.

The mayor said the tax could address some of the challenges the county faces with new growth.

According to League of Women Voters' most recent transportation report, Central Florida commuters spend an average of 46 hours a year in traffic.

Households in Orlando spend 53 percent of their income on housing and transportation, according to the current Housing and Transportation Affordability Index report.

A projected 1,000 residents a week move to Orange County, Demings said, another reason why more affordable housing is needed. By 2030, the Central Florida region is expected to have a population of 5.2 million.

Another focus of the address was raising the minimum wage for all county employees to $15 by 2021.

The growing population also means there is a greater need for housing for all incomes.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Central Florida is the worst in the nation when it comes to affordable housing. Orange County residents would have to work 82 hours a week at minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom home, according to the Coalition's report.

For the first half of the fiscal year, permits were granted for $350 million in new apartment construction, according to the mayor, which exceeds all of last year by more than $100 million.

This story will be updated.