The Polk County Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to reject a proposal to put a half-cent sales tax on the November 2024 ballot.
The vote came after hearing testimony in support of the referendum from a procession of city officials from most of Polk’s 17 municipalities and a member of the local business community.
While commissioners acknowledged people they talk to agree that the county road system should be improved, they disagreed that raising taxes is a desirable solution.
Commissioner Neil Combee was the most vocal opponent. He argued that there will never be enough money to pay for all of the road projects that have been proposed.
Commissioner George Lindsey, who has been speaking to city commissions and civic clubs for several months to gain support for the tax, argued unsuccessfully that Polk is no longer a rural county, but instead is a place where population has increased at one of the highest rates in the nation and will continue to grow. Meanwhile, its transportation funding has not kept up, which is why the tax is needed, he said.
Combee said a lot of people do not celebrate Polk’s growth rate.
Commission Chairman Bill Braswell said there was truly a public demand for more road funding, the public is free to gather petition signatures and put it on the ballot.
What he did not mention that after a pair of citizen initiatives successfully cut commissioners’ salaries in half and imposed term limits, commissioners raised the signature threshold to discourage future efforts.