Tampa light rail supporters, Moving Hillsborough Forward, face The Truth Test

10:35 PM, Oct 13, 2010   |    comments
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TRUTH TEST HEADQUARTERS, Florida - In its campaign to get a penny sales tax for transportation passed on Nov. 2, the group "Moving Hillsborough Forward" has been airing an ad that touts the positive things an approved referendum would do for the county.

In our efforts to keep political campaigns honest, 10 News' Truth Test breaks down the claims made in the ad and issues corresponding grades.

WATCH: Moving Hillsborough Forward's "Together" ad
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Claim 1: "The county-wide transportation initiative: $800 million for local roads."
As you can read in the county's official ballot language or on Moving Hillsborough Forward's project summary, the referendum mandates 25 percent of all money collected goes toward "improving roads and other transportation projects."

An approved referendum is estimated to generate $184 million per year and that means $46 million annually for roads.  It would take 17 years for the tax to pay out $800 million for roads, a reasonable time frame which could be expedited if growth increases revenue.

Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Plant City agreed to a deal that would send the roads money to unfunded projects in the suburbs first.  You can see some of them here.
Grade: A 

Claim 2: "(The initiative would provide) new crosswalks and bike lanes."
Nearly $100 million would be dedicated to intersection projects but that's not in addition to the $800 million for roads - it's included in that stat.

However, the referendum would provide for improvements in crosswalks, bike lanes, and other pedestrian projects.
Grade: A

Claim 3: "(The initiative would provide) light rail and a bus fleet covering the whole county."
The headline-grabber in the transportation tax debate is of course light rail.  The plan would pay for 46 miles of rail that extended from Downtown Tampa to both Tampa International Airport and USF/New Tampa.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) would also use the money to double its 220-bus fleet.  Current bus lines would run more frequently and new lines - including 315 miles of express service - would be added.  New services would also help connect buses to systems in other counties, including PSTA in Pinellas County.
Grade: A

Claim 4: "Every penny (collected would be put) in a dedicated trust monitored by citizens."
Section 5 of the referendum assures that "a citizen oversight committee (the "Committee") shall be established that is comprised of eleven (11) members, each of whom must be an elector residing in Hillsborough County."

If the referendum passes, the county and its three cities (Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Plant City) would create the committee between Nov. 3, 2010 and Jan. 1, 2011.

And while members of the committee won't just be any private citizens (they'll be former public sector experts, private sector experts, or former senior public transportation engineers), there's nothing misleading about the claim.
Grade: A

Claim 5: "(The initiative would provide) one of the biggest jobs programs in Hillsborough history."
Page 22 of the comprehensive transit plan estimates 25,000 new job-years from construction of rail and roads alone.  A job-year is equal to one job for a period of one year. 

Additional jobs would be created through operation of the new trains and buses.
Grade: A

Claim 1 - A
Claim 2 - A
Claim 3 - A
Claim 4 - A
Claim 5 - A

The group that opposes the transportation referendum, "No Tax For Tracks," says Moving Hillsborough Forward doesn't do the public any favors by omitting the cost of the tax.  Hillsborough's sales tax would climb from seven percent to eight percent.  The highest rate in the state at the moment is 7.5 percent.

10 News doesn't endorse candidates or campaigns, but in fact-checking the "Together" ad from Moving Hillsborough Forward, we found the claims to be accurate and honest.

Follow 10 News reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky or Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky. You can also get more by following The Truth Test on Facebook.


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