Orange County commissioners send proposed transportation tax to November ballot

Penny sales tax would collect nearly $600M annually for next 20 years, mayor says

Orange County commissioners voted Tuesday to send a penny sales tax to the November ballot, giving voters the ultimate say on whether it will pass.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County commissioners voted Tuesday to send a penny sales tax to the November ballot, giving voters the ultimate say on whether it will pass.

The sales tax proposal, which is being pushed by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demingsm is aimed at improving public transportation in the county.

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The vote came after 41 people signed up to speak during the public comment period Tuesday afternoon.

Commissioner Nicole Wilson said she is concerned about transparency; she is worried the plan will not provide taxpayers with what they are asking for.

“I think the public deserves full upfront transparency on everything,” Wilson said.

Demings said he is happy with the outcome and does not agree with Wilson.

“I certainly wouldn’t participate in anything where we’re going to be less than transparent, less than honest with the taxpayers of Orange County,” Demings said.

Demings said a one-cent sales tax would help solve transportation problems, which have increased with population growth.

“The problems and the challenges we have today are only going to worsen,” Demings said. “I just want to make sure that every segment of our community understands the potential for this sales tax.”

The mayor kicked off his campaign for the sales tax in 2019, but paused his efforts because of the COVID pandemic. He then renewed his push in January 2022. He said as our population is booming, the current transportation system is overburdened and underfunded.

News 6 spoke to the mayor during a one-on-one interview following the county’s regional economic summit last week. He said if the transportation initiative passes, it would collect nearly $600 million annually for the next 20 years.

The sales tax in Orange County sits at 6.5% currently and the added penny sales tax would increase that to 7.5%.

The proposal would create a robust mass transport system, including expanding SunRail and adding more buses to LYNX’s fleet. It would also include funding for road improvements and the implementation of new technology for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

“Twenty years from now, we will be a much more modern city in terms of having transit options,” Demings said. “We’ll have commuter rail, a light rail of some sort. We’ll have much better connectivity for people to be able to get out of their cars and get to the places where they need to go.”

Demings said 51% or more of the tax increase would be paid by visitors to Orange County.

“This initiative has the right balance, I believe, because the majority of the people who are going to pay for it are the visitors who are coming in and who are helping to clog up our roadways.”

Click here to visit the county’s website to learn more about the transportation initiative.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.