CLEARWATER — A coalition of business leaders and local chambers of commerce have raised almost $500,000 to win support for a referendum to overhaul mass transit in Pinellas County.
A campaign report filed Monday by political committee Friends of Greenlight shows the group backing the Greenlight Pinellas transit plan raised $427,000 in April. The opponents, No Tax for Tracks, report raising $4,735 in the same period and just over $30,000 total.
The single largest donation to Friends of Greenlight was $245,000 from the National Association of Realtors. Both Raymond James Financial and Tampa-based IT company Sykes Enterprises donated $50,000. The Tampa Bay Rays and BayCare Health System chipped in with $25,000 donations.
TECO Energy, which gave $50,000 to the campaign in March, donated another $20,000.
Approval of the Greenlight plan by Pinellas voters would kick-start a $2.2 billion, 10-year project to expand bus service by 65 percent, to add bus-only lanes to some major roads, and to build a 24-mile light-rail link from Clearwater to St. Petersburg.
The plan would be paid for through a one-penny sales tax increase. Annual collections of the extra penny would bring in roughly $130 million per year and would replace a property tax that brings about $30 million per year to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
No Tax leaders say the sales tax hike will harm the county’s economy, hit the county’s poorest residents in the pocket and create an expensive underused transportation network.
The referendum is on Nov. 4.