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The infrastructure sales tax is dead for now

Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson explains why he wants to postpone the infrastructure sales tax.

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

During commission comment at the end of a lengthy Alachua County Commission meeting on December 10, Commission Chair Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson made a motion to stop working on his proposed infrastructure sales tax. Hutchinson proposed the new one-cent sales tax in July, intending to put it on the 2020 ballot. The 20-year sales tax would go into effect starting in 2025, and the proceeds would go toward a county-owned solar array, affordable housing, extended funding for Wild Spaces Public Places, high-speed broadband infrastructure, and assorted other initiatives to be proposed by the county’s municipalities.

However, Hutchinson said last Thursday that they weren’t far enough along in the planning to get it on the 2020 ballot. “If we’re working at the rate we’re working at today, we’d be lucky to get on the 2022 ballot. We need to take it off staff’s front burner and deal with it in due time because it’s just not going to happen, folks,” he said.

Hutchinson continued to explain why he thought they couldn’t get there: “We have to have our list done—essentially an interlocal agreement and all that by the end of March—and at the rate things are going, we’re never going to get there, and we know what our history is like in negotiating interlocals with the city with all this other stuff going on…”

Commissioner Mike Byerly said, “We can’t do it under the format that we approved at our joint meeting, which is… the point I kept trying to make. It’s not gonna happen, it’s gonna bog down and die. If we make it so big and put so many things on the plate… So you don’t want a proposal in any form, at this point?”

Hutchinson said they could still get in on the ballot in 2022: “We’re not going to collect the money until 2025. So we push it off to 2022 and do a good job of it and get the groups together that need to get together. The affordable housing stuff is utter chaos right now, and it’s critical, I think, and there’s a lot of people who will not vote for anything that hasn’t got affordable housing on there, and there’s no way the affordable housing people are going to get their act together before the end of March.”

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Byerly said, “I’m ok with that because frankly I thought it was going to have a real struggle in any form, it’s just not a good time to put another tax increase on the ballot, with what’s going on.”

Hutchinson chimed in, “There’s a lot of confusion, anger, bitterness and stuff like that about government stuff in general… what I hear from dozens of people: ‘Great ideas, this is just the wrong time right now.’”

Byerly agreed: “Double digit tax increases in one year in the city… and we need the city.”

Hutchinson moved to ask the County Manager to stop working on this for now, “and we will come back with a better idea in the future.” The motion passed unanimously. 

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