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Jacksonville, FL (May 26, 2021) – After much debate, the Jacksonville City Council Passed by a Vote of 14 – 5 to raise the current Gas Tax for Duval Country from its current 6 Cents to 12 Cents, as Council Member Becton Voted “No”.

Legislation filed by Council President Tommy Hazouri on behalf of Mayor Lenny Curry, looks to double the current 6 cent gas tax to 12 cents beginning January 1st, 2022 for a period of 30 years. In addition to raising the overall tax, the current 6 cent gas tax will be extended 10 years from its previous sunset in 2036; through August 31, 2046.

Citing the need to fund infrastructure projects throughout the city, the gas tax revenue estimated to raise $1.08 billion dollars would be shared 50/50 with JTA (Jacksonville Transit Authority) in various other uses including funding of $247 million for the conversion of the 2.5-mile downtown Skyway structure to an automated rubber-tired vehicle which would also run at street-level and to boost funding for the St. Johns River Ferry Service by purchasing an additional second ferry boat and fund the construction of dockage for it at an estimated cost of $16 million. As the 7.5-mile extension of the Skyway was rejected by City Council, that funding in the amount of $132 million would be redirected to the downtown network of paths for walking and bicycling called the Emerald Trail.

The contention that was made in raising the Gas Tax was presented as a singular binary option in its justification”, Council Member Becton stated. “That option was to Raise the Gas Tax and get these infrastructure improvements vs. Don’t raise it and don’t get the improvements; which was just a totally false narrative”, Council Member Becton added. “Never did you hear about Bill 2021-289 that I filed to provide a third option; Don’t raise taxes and still get these infrastructure improvements”, Council Member Becton explained.

Council Member Becton stated the following during debate on the Bill:

“Our city as previously stated is in great economic condition. Our capacity within our current means has been acknowledged to be very capable to handle investments in both septic tanks and infrastructure improvements.

Just this week, if you missed it, our property appraiser has provided his initial estimate for property taxes for 2021-22 and that revenue projection shows an increase of $56 million dollars to our budget! And not to leave out the State’s largest budget ever, I’m sure Sales Taxes from the State to our city will add to that.

This is why I introduced 2021-289; we can fund the infrastructure improvements that we need and not raise taxes. It just needs to be our priority!

When is enough, enough?”

In looking at the cost to individual consumers, the Gas Tax is estimated to cost between $30 and $45 per year from fill-ups, state estimates based on driving 15,000 miles per year and vehicles getting between 20 and 30 miles per gallon. “In looking at the holistic impact of gas prices rising, it should not be ignored that its impact from these tax increases will go much deeper”, Council Member Becton stated. “Most families have multiple cars and multiple drivers including teens that will all add to those totals, plus we all receive deliveries for mail and packages, dry cleaning, the pizza guy and other services that have transportation costs embedded into what they charge. You can bet, all of these services will pass along their added costs as well”, Council Member Becton acknowledge.

The final vote had Council Members Tommy Hazouri, Brenda Priestly Jackson, Ron Salem, Aaron Bowman, Michael Boylan, Matt Carlucci, Garrett Dennis, Terrance Freeman, Reggie Gaffney, Joyce Morgan, Sam Newby, Ju’Coby Pittman, Randy White and Kevin Carrico support its passage.

Voting Against included: Randy Defoor, Danny Becton, LeAnna Cumber, Rory Diamond and Al Ferraro.

In reviewing the infrastructure improvements among City Council District, the Council Auditors reported the following breakdown:

District 1 – $12m, District 2 – $62.8m, District 3 – $4.6m, District 4 – $23.9m, District 5 – $36.7m, District 6 – $4.9m, District 7 – $18.5m, District 8 – $12.5m, District 9 – $5.3m, District 10 – $4.4m, District 11 – $0, District 12 – $30m, District 13 – $25.5m, District 14 – $13.3. All Totaling approximately $254.4m.

Countywide Projects include: District 2/13 – $16.1m, District 5/11 – $4.3m, District 5/7/14 – $379m, District 7/8 – $6.1m, District 8/9 – $3.9m, District 9/10 – $6.0m, District 7/8/9/10 – $13.8m.

As Council Member Becton stated on multiple occasions during the debate:

The narrative which has been constantly communicated about raising the Gas Tax and then only getting these infrastructure improvements is false. As I have pointed out on multiple occasions, there is a 3rd option which keeps getting ignored or minimized. It’s Bill 2021-289 that I have filed to fund $100m for infrastructure projects without raising taxes.

Therefore, let’s be clear, this debate is about Raising Taxes!

Every day, our constituents are facing increases in the cost of living. If you want to talk about Quality of Life, then let’s be concerned how everyone is being impacted by inflation of over 4%, gas prices going up, food, mortgages, rents on the rise.

As this is being labeled a Job Bill, I contend that this is an extreme over-sell! As reported in March, there is a record high of 18.1 million jobs available, unfilled in this country. It is reported that 44% of all small businesses have job openings, another record high. As we look at these infrastructure projects, it will be years before most of these projects are shovel ready and right now, finding contractors, engineers and other labors to do the work, good luck.

Our budget since 2015 has increased over $300 million dollars in excess revenue which has averaged over $50 million dollars per year. This coming year, another $56 million plus our state increase will keep adding to that. This city is growing and our tax revenue will continue to grow as well.

It is my opinion, our needs are about priorities and from my seat, this city does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.”