Rental Tax for Transit Funding Gets Push in Palm Beach County

PALM BEACH CO., Fla. -- After years of failed efforts by South Florida's mass transit agency to win legislative approval for a tax on car owners, the Palm Beach County Commission has endorsed the Regional Transportation Authority's latest idea to charge a daily $2.50 surcharge on rental cars, according to a newspaper report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The commissioners are unanimously supporting the RTA’s latest plan, they believe that most of the money would come from tourists rather than their constituents. Commissioner Jeff Koons, also the RTA chairman, told the newspaper that the rental tax would likely generate $50 million a year. The RTA could use that revenue to attract federal matching money for South Florida mass-transit projects.

If the plan goes through, and the RTA secures its own source of money, commissioners in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties could also each stop paying $4.9 million annually to the RTA out of their budgets.

Even with the promised cash break on the table, the RTA had not been able to convince the Palm Beach County commissioners to support other tax ideas to this point, according to the report. Other failed proposals included a $15 annual increase in the cost of license tags, a 2 cents-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax and a fee of about $100 on the sale of each new and used car.

State Rep. Carl Domino, chairman of the county legislative delegation, told the Sun-Sentinel that he thinks there's a "high probability" the RTA could win approval for a rental-car surcharge, especially if it contains a provision requiring voter approval in a referendum.

Domino was a major opponent of past RTA tax increase proposals that didn't include a referendum requirement. He opposed the idea of higher tax increases without voter approval. County commissioners and the transit agency haven't liked referendum requirements, figuring voters wouldn't approve higher taxes.

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