Transportation Sales Tax Initiative Relaunched After COVID Delays
Making a long-term investment in transportation is critical to maintaining a high quality of life for all residents of Orange County. On January 25, 2022, the transportation penny sales tax referendum initiative was relaunched after a nearly two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings and his staff participated in more than 200 community engagement opportunities, including town halls, neighborhood meetings, community events and other discussions. Public engagement continues and includes a transportation survey designed to receive resident input in each of the County’s six commission districts. The County will put the proposed penny sales tax on the November 2022 ballot for Orange County residents to decide, pending a vote by the Board of County Commissioners.
The sales tax endeavors to fund specific transit and transportation infrastructure needs to increase safety (e.g., making road construction zones safer), advance mobility and connectivity, and improve air quality. If passed, it has the potential to generate almost $600 million per year which would be dedicated solely to transportation projects, infrastructure, technology (e.g., traffic signal timing) and public transit. It would also provide increased safety for all transportation users, including bicyclists.
Tourists and visitors would fund more than half (51 percent) of the nearly $600 million raised yearly. The tax would only apply to the first $5,000 per single purchase of retail goods and services — the same items currently subject to a sales tax now. No tax would be collected on essential food items such as bread and milk, nor on other foods not taxed now. Prescription drugs would be exempt, as would utilities.
Residents have inquired about simply raising the gas tax, but gasoline sales tax revenues remain flat and are expected to decline in the future. And while federal infrastructure dollars could help jump-start projects, the County must provide local matching funds and have a dedicated funding source when applying for federal grants. The transportation sales tax would ensure a consistent amount of funding is available for the County to apply for federal funding.
“The sales tax is an investment in our future,” said Mayor Demings. “It will be an economic driver that creates jobs, opportunities and connectivity, as well as an evolutionary process that will be something going forward for decades.”
A viable transportation system benefits everyone, not just those who use public transit. A robust transit system that runs frequently, directly and on time takes vehicles off the roads when drivers opt to become riders, which helps with traffic flow and benefits the environment. And for those who work from home, an improved transportation system means deliveries get to your home more efficiently, and it eases traffic congestion when you use ridesharing services or when you drive to run errands or go to appointments.
“Orange County must have a viable transportation system to continue to grow and be the best place for people to live, work and play,” said Mayor Demings. “This sales tax enables us to meet our critical transportation needs both in the short- and long-term.”
To learn more about the transportation sales tax initiative, transportation fast facts, a list of upcoming open houses, and to take the survey, go to Orange County Transportation Initiative.