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Resistance builds to proposed county gas tax hike

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HUDSON — The Pasco Republican Party has begun lobbying against a proposed 5-cent increase in the Pasco County gasoline tax as “unfair” to residents.

The GOP resolution in opposition to the gas tax hike passed without dissent among about 100 people Thursday night, Bill Bunting said as Pasco’s Republican state committeeman. A copy of the document will be sent to county commissioners, who haven’t made any decision on the proposal.

“It’s an unfair tax for a lot of people,” Bunting said.

County officials had not responded before press time to requests for reaction about the buildup of opposition.

A recent county survey gave three options to help fund road repairs: raise the gas tax a nickel, to 12 cents per gallon; levy a road and bridge property tax; or do nothing.

Among 1,750 online respondents, more opted for the property tax option, 59 percent, than a higher gas tax, 49 percent.

Results from randomly mailed surveys showed only 41 percent of 243 respondents support raising the gas tax.

County Administrator Michele Baker has said the surveys send a clear message that about three-fourths of respondents believe that the county needs to do something with roads. Respondents ranked roads and traffic as one of the three top priorities for the next year, even though they disagree on how to pay for it, she noted.

The Pasco GOP intends to buy advertising in several publications and cable TV, to highlight opposition to the tax hike.

“I don’t want to see a nickel” increase in the gas tax, Bunting said, adding “I don’t want to see one penny.”

Many Pasco residents continue to struggle in one of the slowest economic recoveries after a recession in the nation’s history, Republican leaders pointed out. Retirees often get very little interest on savings, Bunting noted.

Besides the regressive nature of the tax, Bunting fears a ripple effect from raising the gas tax.

Businesses simply will pass along higher costs to their customers, Bunting believes. The higher tax could put pressure on grocery prices or force delivery services to raise fees, he speculated.

“It’s actually a double tax” that would “never go away” if passed, Bunting said.

As the economy continues to improve, the county will collect more gas tax revenue anyway, he said.

Material from Tampa Tribune articles was used in this article.

corth@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1068

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