Florida Rental Tax Veto Has Transit Officials Regrouping

After Gov. Jeb Bush's veto of a fee that would have raised $45 million a year to expand Tri-Rail and build new mass transit projects, South Florida transportation officials are plotting a strategy to bring up the car rental excise tax again next year, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Despite overwhelming support for the rental car fee in both the Florida House and Senate, Bush scrapped the measure, saying it amounted to taxation without representation.

Transportation Authority member Jeff Koons said he doesn’t know what happened because the bill was crafted to meet Bush's concerns, including a provision that would have required voters in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to approve the fee before the authority received any money.

With the population in South Florida expected to double in the next 25 years and roadway capacity increasing only 14 percent during that time, the transportation problem will reach a critical point soon, forcing officials to seek funding for transit solutions, according to the Palm Beach Post.

If the rental car surcharge is adopted, the authority could use the revenue to issue bonds and leverage the money with matching state and federal grants, adding up to at least $1.2 billion. That would be enough to begin new transit projects in the three counties, said Joe Giulietti, the authority's executive director.

The authority will lobby to have the issue decided at the beginning of the session, giving counties more time to educate voters before they go to the polls. They also hope that with Bush’s term ending soon and new elected officials in the legislature, the bill will have a smoother ride to acceptance.

"Everybody's increasing rail service and going after federal money," Giulietti said. "The competition has gotten really tight."

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