HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Florida - After watching disappointing numbers continue to roll in throughout the evening, supporters for the proposed "light rail" referendum have conceded defeat. The measure would have added one cent to the county sales tax to fund transportation improvements that also included improved bus systems and hundreds of millions for road projects.
After 59.4 percent of early votes came in opposing the transit tax, the news wasn't much better for referendum supporters when it came to the votes on Election Day. The measure needed 50 percent for passage.
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While many of the precincts in the city of Tampa and along I-275, one of the proposed rail routes, supported the measure, the anti-tax sentiment of the county's more rural areas doomed the referendum.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, one of the measure's strongest advocates, told a crowd of supporters they'll "live to see another day," and since the referendum was endorsed by elected officials from both parties, it may only be a matter of education to convince more voters to get on-board.
"Did we have organized opposition," Iorio asked rhetorically. "Yes: a bad economy."
The measure's defeat could hamper the plans of transit supporters in Pinellas Co; they will likely ease up on their efforts for a similar referendum until their counterparts in Hillsborough Co. regroup and bring the proposal back.
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Noah Pransky, 10 News