Today, I joined Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) CEO Nat Ford and members of City Council at the JTA Mobility Works project under construction at Collins Road to announce our plan to invest in the future of our city, and create jobs for our citizens.
My team and I have been meeting with my colleagues on City Council regarding a long-term funding solution to better address the backlog of infrastructure needs throughout Jacksonville and begin fulfilling some of the promises made to communities in our city.
Visit JobsForJax.net to learn more about this program
The Jobs for Jax program includes extending and increasing the already existing gas tax, a tool already in use by many of our neighboring counties and other major cities in Florida to fund infrastructure needs (View a map of locally imposed motor fuel taxes in Florida). These funds are used for infrastructure projects like the one on Collins Road, projects that improve the daily quality of life for our citizens. We are proposing to extend our current six-cent tax and are also advocating for an additional 6 cents, that is currently charged by our neighbors in Nassau and Clay Counties, and in other major metropolitan areas in the state.
For too many years our city did not properly invest in the key infrastructure and needs our community deserves due to inadequate funding. This contributed to the lack of economic development and the decline in quality of life for many neighborhoods.
I came into office in 2015 with a commitment to change that. And that’s what we did. Immediately upon taking office, we conducted an audit of City finances and found $58 million to jumpstart our capital investments in neighborhoods. And with Pension Reform, we were able to free up hundreds of millions of more dollars to spend on these priorities. For example, last year we put forward a nearly $240 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the biggest in the history of our city. But the backlog of projects and community needs is substantial. We needed to find a funding solution to accomplish this priority for our citizens.
By fully leveraging the Gas Tax like other major Florida cities do, we can make significant progress on improvements to transportation and infrastructure needs throughout our community. Over 30 years, this source of revenue is expected to raise nearly a billion dollars, exclusively used to invest in our infrastructure and create thousands of jobs.
With these funds, we will move quickly to begin work on as many transportation projects in the Capital Improvement Plan as we can; which means more construction jobs, safer and better-quality roadways, and more economic opportunities for our neighborhoods. And by using these proposed funds to pay for them, we’re freeing up dollars to invest in other priorities.
Our proposal, which my team and I will work on with City Council, is to use these funds to make a major dent in phasing out the septic tanks so many Jacksonville neighborhoods were promised decades ago. The septic tank issue is one that has been kicked down the road for too long and it’s time for government to start keeping its promises. We can’t keep saying it’s too big to deal with, or too expensive to deal with, and pass the buck to the next administration or Council. The longer we wait, the more expensive it gets, and the bigger the problem becomes. The time for action is now.
Some may ask ‘why a Gas Tax?’ Unlike a property tax increase, this revenue is mandated to be used for transportation investments and no other purpose. This creates continuity from administration to administration, and council to council, to ensure that these funds won’t be redirected somewhere else a few years from now. The revenue is also captured by allwho use our roadways, including the estimated 96,000 out-of-county commuters who cross our border every day; and the thousands of visitors who drive along I-95’s 34 miles in Jacksonville and get gas off one of our 45 exits. In addition to these benefits (and unlike other proposals), as a dedicated source of income, the Gas Tax does not increase the debt load on taxpayers.
To move forward with this proposal, my team will continue to work with City Council on approving the revenue source and the list of projects. If approved by Council, the funding will be incorporated into our normal budget proposal process and work will begin in the new fiscal year this October.
To summarize, this Jobs for Jax program is about investing in our community and its future, providing jobs for our citizens, increasing the quality of life and economic outlooks for our neighborhoods, and fulfilling decades-old promises.