Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Readers Analyze Sales Tax Referendum

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Readers Analyze Sales Tax Referendum

Article excerpt

Voters in Jacksonville will soon decide whether to approve the extension of a half-cent sales tax.

The Better Jacksonville Plan tax is set to expire in 2030. Now it is set to be extended for 30 years in order to pay down unfunded pension debt.

That plan was promoted by the mayor, passed by City Council, approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor. It would enable the current sales tax, which is 7 cents, to stay in place after 2030 - rather than be reduced to 6.5 cents.

But a majority of voters will have to vote yes to put the plan into effect.

The Times-Union's view is that this is needed to put the city's finances back in order. The entire city's future is on hold until this pension debt is addressed.

We asked members of our Email Interactive Group for their analysis. What are some of the issues that concern them? Because the financial issue is complex, the history is long and the solution is convoluted, this will not be an easy sales job.

THE BIG PICTURE

Concerning the upcoming voter referendum on extending the local half-cent sales tax, it is essential that the mayor, City Council and the employee unions present a united front - and be able to explain the following to voters:

- The city filing for bankruptcy is not a viable option. Jacksonville is not Detroit. We are a low-tax city in a low-tax state and there is very little chance that a federal bankruptcy court will allow Jacksonville to default on its existing obligations.

- The bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott prohibits any new city hires from being placed into the existing, underfunded pension plans.

It must also be made clear to voters how any new pension plans will differ from existing plans - and how those differences will prevent a repeat of the current debacle.

And the mayor must explain the consequences of not passing the referendum. He must give specific examples of needs that will go unmet if the pension debt is not paid down in a timely manner.

Wayne Tutt, Jacksonville

SAME OLD GOVERNMENT

It was disappointing that the state gave approval for Jacksonville to have a voter referendum on whether to keep the sales tax rate in place once the temporary increase expires. But government being what it is, we knew when the "temporary" tax increase went into effect that it wouldn't be temporary.

Once government gets used to spending money, it rarely takes that power away.

Let's hope voters force government to set priorities and live within its means.

Phil Dove, Jacksonville

DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY

I won't vote yes on this issue until members of the city's previous administrations explain why we are in this position - and why we taxpayers have been asked to bail them out!

John Schaaf, Atlantic Beach

THE BEST OPTION

A sales tax is the best option because tourists and others will help pay our bills. …

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