DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners apparently don’t have the votes to pass a controversial nickel-per-gallon gas tax increase.
Any gas tax increase above the current 7 cents per gallon would require approval from four of the county’s five commissioners, but only three have come out in support of the increase. Commissioner Jack Mariano has opposed it from the outset, while Commissioner Henry Wilson holds the deciding vote.
Wilson said he received 50 emails over the weekend — all opposed to the gas tax increase. He said Monday that unless something dramatic happens during Tuesday’s public hearing, he will vote against it.
“I’ve been tossing around the idea of a reduced rate of 3 cents — not the 5 cents — with a sunset provision. It could only be used for road maintenance,” Wilson said. “But I just don’t have the same peace of mind about that that I have about the millage rate.”
Wilson was the only commissioner to vote against the budget, which calls for an 8 percent property tax increase. He said he has had a change of heart after reading the entire budget book. County employees would get their first pay raises in six years.
“I’m not in support of the entire budget. I think there are some initiatives we could put off for a year,” he said. “But I will most likely vote for the millage rate because I want the employees to get their raises.”
Wilson said he would be willing to reconsider the gas tax increase in a year. “I’ve talked to business owners on both sides of it, and what they’ve said to me is this can wait a year.”
Neither Hillsborough nor Pinellas counties charge more than 7 cents per gallon for unleaded fuel. Raising the local gas tax to 12 cents would cost a typical driver (one who drives 15,000 miles per year and gets 20 miles per gallon) an average of $37.50 more over the course of a year.
All six municipalities in Pasco County have come out in opposition to the higher gas tax, and the county’ Republic Executive Committee has also campaigned to quash the increase.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the levy following a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Historic County Courthouse in Dade City. The first public hearing on the 2014 budget will follow the gas tax vote.