Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ first State of the County address, delivered Thursday, May 17, included plans to propose a one-cent sales-tax increase.
The tax increase, which Demings said will come to voters in the form of a referendum in 2020, will be used to fund the Lynx bus services, the SunRail commuter system and to improve current infrastructures to support the growing community.
“If our goal is to empower every resident and citizen, we will need to provide multiple options for transit, including more buses, more routes, more trains and a robust network that supports pedestrians and bicyclists,” Demings said.
The mayor said he intends to hold multiple meetings with Orange County communities and stakeholders. Demings plans to work with the County Commission and residents to see where the money needs to go to support the fast-growing community.
This issue is one he plans to tackle along with the need for affordable housing, which Demings believes are connected.
“This is something we must focus on as a county,” Demings said. “What we have right now is simply not sustainable.”
Acknowledging similar tax initiatives in the past which were unsuccessful, Demings was confident the current community will come to a solution that works for everyone.
“Timing is everything,” he said. “We’re at a critical stage in our community now where people feel the pain associated with the transportation challenges we have.”
Additionally, the speech given – to an audience of about 1,500 at the Orange County Convention Center – addressed increasing the amount of affordable housing units in the area; combating opioid abuse and overdose mapping; providing funding for children’s services; creaing community programs for residents who are homeless; and improving the quality of life of county residents.
Demings addressed the latter by saying that building a community means providing a standard for quality of life. He pledged all full-time government employees will make at least $15 an hour by the end of 2021 and encouraged employers in the community to do the same.
“I know these are bold proposals, but it is time for us to move forward and build a community that works for everyone,” Demings said.
West Orange County
During the speech, Demings also took time to recognize the works of current Orange County commissioners, including Betsy VanderLey, commissioner of District 1. Demings acknowledged VanderLey’s efforts to break ground on a new 220-acre park in Horizon West that is still in its early planning stages.
“This park will prove to be a model for other parks in the future and will be a county-wide amenity,” Demings said.