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Orange County voters will decide whether transportation needs are worth a penny more in sales tax

Orange County officials say an enhanced mass transit system would include round-the-clock service, dramatically shorten commutes, provide new routes without going downtown and improve the frequency of service. Chart: Orange County

The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted 4 to 3 to put a 20-year, one-cent sales tax for transportation on the November ballot.

The vote came after more than 30 members of the public — from business and nonprofit leaders to union representatives and cyclists — spoke in support of the transportation tax.

Gaby Ortigoni, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, was one of many speakers to focus on mass transit needs.

“[O]ne of the most important needs that employers need in order for their employees to have access to work, to be able to be reliable and effective at what they do, which is to have reliable transportation, easy transportation, convenient and safe transportation — they don’t have it,” she said.

Mayor Jerry Demings has been working on the initiative since before the pandemic. The tax would raise an estimated $600 million a year to address traffic congestion, pedestrian and bike safety, and major improvements to mass transit.

Demings argued for his plan Tuesday evening.

“People want transit to be easily accessible, convenient, flexible, modern and readily connected to other mobility options,” he said, citing an expert. “We heard that today. Our plan does that.”

Concerned about transparency and the public’s trust, Commissioner Mayra Uribe got the commission to revise an 11-member oversight board.

It would meet at least twice a year to review spending and advise the commission. A technical committee would work to promote collaboration among the agencies and local governments.

Ten percent of the funds raised would go to municipal needs. The rest would be split between the county and mass transit, including LYNX and SunRail.

It would increase the minimum county sales tax to 7.5 percent.

Commissioners Nicole Wilson and Emily Bonilla raised concerns about the plan. Both sought to put more focus on mass transit and away from new roads.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.