The nearly $4 billion “Go Hillsborough” initiative is pushing a host of new transportation ideas and platforms.
By Jacob Engels
Five years after Hillsborough voters rejected a similar multi-billion dollar tax hike, some of the same proponents have successfully secured a spot on the ballot for the “Go Hillsborough” initiative, which would impose a half-penny sales tax on residents. The proposal, which calls for an overhaul of the counties transportation infrastructure and offerings, has failed to generate widespread public support.
It has however received backing from several elected officials locally, and with political insiders in both the Republican and Democratic party. Doug Guetzloe, who runs Ax The Tax, has been called an anti-tax crusader and is planning to run an aggressive campaign to persuade residents to vote against the measure.
His organization has defeated over $55 billion dollars since starting the fight back in the 1980’s during the Reagan era. Many in the media refer Guetzloe as the state’s top anti-tax advocate, pointing to his incredible win/loss record fighting similar efforts. Guetzloe said that while commissioners contend that it is the “Democratic” thing to do by placing the issues before voters, that the entire concept is flawed.
“If commissioners can think they can with a wink and nod put this issue on the ballot without impunity, then they are seriously mistaken,” stated Doug Guetzloe, a Tampa native.
Joshua Burgin, a longtime resident of Hillsborough County told the East Orlando Post that he believes that opponents of the tax have become more sophisticated and better equipped at stopping tax increases from defeating projects like Moving Hillsborough Forward and Greenlight Pinellas.
“The GoHillsborough Tax will fail, just like the Moving Hillsborough Forward and GreenLight Pinellas taxes failed before it. The supporters of the GoHillsborough Tax have relied on county center “palace intrigue” and manipulation to promote their agenda. Politics and political power is always about addition, never division or subtraction – those opposing the tax have become more sophisticated through their experiences with Moving Hillsborough Forward and GreenLight Pinellas.
Meanwhile the GoHillsborough team have alienated traditional supporters, such as the Sierra Club and some prominent local Democrats.”
Burgin is now studying at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government to earn his masters degree and older brother of former Republican State Representative Rachel Burgin.
However, opposition to the project is not limited to the Republican party.
Patrick Manteiga, a leader within the Hillsborough County Democratic party has been a vocal opponent of the project. Manteiga publishes the renowned tri-lingual newspaper La Gaceta, which has been in print since 1922 serving the West Coast area of Florida. The publication, along with the Saintpetersblog, have been critical of public relations consultant Beth Leytham’s behind the scenes involvement with the Go Hillsborough project.
Leytham has come under fire for her relentless pimping of the effort, which stands to greatly benefit a major client of her firm, The Leytham Group.
“It’s really outrageous that voters would be subjected to another round of high pressure sales pitches backed by millions of dollars from vested special interests who wish to line their pockets with hard-earned tax dollars by promoting another ill-fated tax increase. Commissioners will be held accountable for putting this unnecessary and vastly unwanted issue on the ballot and wasting tax payer dollars as well as contributing to voter fatigue in voting every couple of years for a tax increase,” Guetzloe continued.
His committee spent over $100,000 to defeat the most recent transportation effort in 2010, and is likely to spend that or more according to Guetzloe.
Former Vice Chair of the Republican Party of Florida Deborah Cox-Roush, who runs an advocacy consulting and advocacy business, said that the area needs to find a solution for the gridlock.
“Go Hillsborough supporters should be working through the current investigation and complaint to provide a clear vision for residents. Everyone needs to understand how this will effect their pocketbooks, but also how not fixing the problems we face will impact our daily lives.”
Successful Tampa area businessman Sam Rashid, who has advised Governor Jeb Bush, Rick Scott and is longtime Republican mega-donor, told us that he is not afraid to use his considerable resources to remind voters of county commissioners and elected officials who are supporting the project. Rashid has served on the boards of Workforce Florida, the Alzheimer’s Research Institute, and most recently the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.
“The proposal is doomed to fail at the ballot box. Any Republican County Commissioner that supports putting this initiative on the ballot supports the tax as far as county residents are concerned. They will pay for their support of this $3.5 billion tax proposal at the ballot box.”
Rashid is not known to mince words and holds considerable clout in the area and statewide. He said that Guetzloe’s Ax The Tax is the only group well financed enough to take on the lobbyists, PR firms, and business groups pushing for the tax hike – many of whom stand to gain financially if it passes.
“Ax The Tax is going to be instrumental in defeating this tax proposal at the ballot box in 2016 as they were in 2010, when it was last proposed,” Rashid concluded.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org