Voters reject Osceola County sales tax increase

We asked Osceola County commissioners what's next now that voters have rejected a sales tax hike to pay for traffic improvements.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Osceola County residents voted down a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase Tuesday.

According to the supervisor of elections website, the increase was defeated by a margin of more than 10,000 votes.

County officials believed the increase, which was projected to bring in an additional $67 million a year, was needed to fund transportation facilities and services.

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“Not to be a pun, but it’s to fix the traffic,” said Atlee Mercer, with Fix the Traffic! political committee. “There’s nobody you talk to in Osceola County who doesn’t say we have a traffic problem.”

Mercer said his group had been raising money and campaigning to get the increase passed.

The county has said the tax would have paid for 37 unfunded road projects.

Those for it argued a large portion, more than 40 percent, would be paid for by tourists, and they believe it will help get matching state and federal funding.

“We have to fix the traffic and nobody’s going to help us,” said Mercer.

Tom Lanier, of Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace, is against the increase. He believed it would hurt business, poor people and people on fixed incomes the most.

“For somebody making $30,000 with four kids, or two kids, that’s a lot of money,” he said.

Critics say they believe the money for these projects already exists in the county’s $1 billion budget.

“There needs to be something done about the traffic, but this isn’t the right way to do it,” said Mark Cross, Osceola County Republican Executive Committee Chairman.