Clearwater, Florida -- There's a full court press in Pinellas County to get voters to approve a one cent sales tax increase for bus and rail. The group called Yes for Greenlight filed as a political action committee Thursday and will use private funds to persuade voters. However as 10 Investigates the push for the tax, there are charges public money is being used as well.
Now, keep in mind it's illegal to use taxpayer money to advocate for a position on an issue like a tax increase, but the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is spending $800,000 of your money to produce all sorts of material to advocate for the tax.
The public agency says it is not breaking the law, but instead, explaining how wonderful increasing bus and adding light rail will be for Pinellas County.
The PSTA says all of this material that it's producing is simply an educational effort to make sure the voters know everything about what the tax will do for the county.
However, critics say the PTSA is not telling the full story, and that became obvious the other night at a Gulf Port Council meeting when PSTA head Brad Miller was asked about the kind of information being discussed.
Councilmember Dan Liedtke asked, "Has any of the outreach material discussed the cons of the Pinellas Greenlight plan?"
Miller paused and then blurted "Uh, eh, No! "
We asked Miller about what critics say is lack of candor by the so called Education Campaign and he said, "The question is not accurate. It is unnecessary to talk about negative facts, that's not what we are trying to do with our information.
When we reminded Miller there are some negatives including if the plan goes into effect sales tax will go up, he told us, "The sales tax will go up and that is a choice."
In addition to increasing the sales tax in Pinellas to the highest in the state, opponents say part of the light rail plan will increase congestion because it calls for surface routes meaning the trains will cross major roads and stop traffic. In addition, there are plans for bus-only lanes which again adds to congestion on the roads. However, problems are never mentioned in the Education Campaign.
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