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Orange County Mayor Calls For Penny-Tax-Funded Transportation Projects

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 22 May 2019 16:09

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings called for a penny-tax-funded focus on transportation projects during his recent State of Orange County address, the first of such he’s given since being elected. Noting that the state of local infrastructure was insufficient to meet the needs of everyday citizens, the mayor proposed a penny sales tax to pay for various transportation services, including the Lynx bus service and SunRail.


The mayor’s proposal will require approval from Orange County citizens, who will vote on the measure during the upcoming November 2020 elections. Before the ballot initiative is presented to the public, Orange County will also prepare a number of community meetings wherein citizens can present their feedback on the proposal to public officials.


“The schedule says one thing, but a lot of time the buses are never on time,” one local citizen told WFTV9 in an interview. “It’s like a 10 minute drive, but it takes an hour and a half to get to [my destination],” another told the local station.


According to Mayor Demings, the average Orange County citizen sees an average of 48 hours of their time go to waste in traffic and transportation-related delays every year.


The penny sales tax will impact all Orange County citizens as they make purchases. The new expected proceeds from the tax is enough to more than double the existing fleet of Lynx busses, according to the mayor, with additional funds remaining for upgrades to the rail system. Arguing that the regional population will swell to roughly 5.2 million by 2030, the mayor argued that such transit projects are needed to keep commerce and public affairs moving forward.


Mayor Deming’s call is the first major transportation overhaul proposal since 2003, when a similar effort by the county to raise funds for public transportation failed to drum up enough popular support to find approval.

Elsewhere in California, other transportation projects are finding it difficult to drum up funding. A report from Greater Greater Washington notes that California’s ambitious high-speed rail project is being scaled back after construction and funding difficulties began plaguing officials in charge of the project.


Last year, however, Orange County Transportation Authority got a sizable boost from federal authorities and those who have an Orange County mortgage. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced in the end of 2018 that they had struck a $149 million funding agreement with Orange County Transportation Authorities, for instance, most of which went towards the Orange County Streetcar program.


Currently, Orange County’s sales tax is lower than those of surrounding regions; Orange County’s 6.5% sales tax beats nearby Hillsborough County’s 8.5% sales tax and Osceola County’s 7.5% rate.


“If our goal is to empower every resident and citizen, we will need to provide multiple options for transit including more buses, more routes, more trains, and a robust network that supports pedestrians and bicyclists,” the mayor said.  


Mayor Jennings also took the opportunity to bring up the housing issues plaguing Orange County. Citing a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Mayor Demings estimated Orange County residents would be forced to work 82 hours a week at the minimum wage rate in order to afford a one bedroom house.

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Charles Goff Deakins

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