Transit trust recommends doubling sales surtax
By Suzy Valentine
The surtax geared to expand rail and bus service in Miami-Dade may be doubled, but it's unclear when.
The Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust on Monday recommended doubling the transportation tax on sales in Miami-Dade County from 0.5% to 1% "at a future date." Enacting the recommendation would require county commission approval and a majority of voters in a referendum.
The surtax hike recommendation came in a resolution that also proposed redistributing the 20% portion of the tax receipts that goes to municipalities. The resolution incorporates all municipalities existing when the tax underlying the People's Transportation Plan came into force Nov. 5, 2002, as well as those incorporated since, which now don't receive funding via the tax. New cities Doral and Miami Gardens have been campaigning for a share of the receipts.
The resolution passed 5-3 but not before some trust members raised concerns about doubling the tax. One called a hike premature.
"Do we not think it might be a little bit too soon to ask for the increase?" asked Maureen O'Donnell.
"The resolution doesn't set a timeframe," said Nan Markowitz, trust executive director. "It just says increase it. It doesn't say tomorrow, next month, next year, in 10 years."
Supporting redistribution of 20% of the surtax, Ms. O'Donnell suggested that the trust uncouple the issues.
"I totally agree with the first portion of the resolution," she said, "but I do have a problem with asking the county commission to raise the surtax. I know it's one resolution, but is there some way it could be better handled as two separate resolutions?"
The trust's chairman agreed that the public might be more receptive to the hike if there was something to show for the existing contribution but said he was reassured there was no fixed date proposed for an increase.
"My recommendation was based on completion of the Orange Line," said Marc Buoniconti, a reference to the Metrorail extension in three directions that is to be completed by 2010. "At least we'd have built something. Then we could possibly ask for another half cent to build the rest of the People's Transportation Plan projects, but it's way open-ended."
Ms. O'Donnell was unmoved.
"I would recommend that we separate the items up, so that we can deal with the 20% issue and get that resolved," she said.
"At some point down the road, when we have something to show for it, we can try to get the surtax increased. Sending this message now, the people will think we're trying to get this extra half cent now and we don't have an awful whole lot to show."
Another trust member tried to stall consideration of the surtax hike.
"There are good ideas here," said the Rev. Theodore Wilde, "but this is in too raw a form to have board consensus. I think we should decline the schedule the county commissioners have given us."
After further discussion and at the behest of trust member Miles Moss, assistant county attorney Bruce Libhaber inserted the words "at a future date" and the trust approved the resolution.