Voters strike down Orange County transportation tax

Orange County voters did not support a one-cent sales tax that would have funded improvements to local transportation infrastructure. Voters also selected a new face for Florida House District 45.

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  • | 9:22 p.m. November 8, 2022
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Editor’s note: All vote totals and percentages are taken from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections’ unofficial results.

Despite years of campaigning by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings to garner support for a one-cent transportation sales tax, county residents ultimately voted down the measure.

The referendum, which would have raised an estimated $600 million per year, failed substantially. It garnered just 41.5% of the vote.

Locally, the tax would have funded $270 million over the next 20 years in transportation projects in the cities of Ocoee and Winter Garden and the towns of Windermere and Oakland. Furthermore, county projects in District 1, which covers all of Horizon West, totaled about $913 million, county officials said.

“My friends, I am sad to report that the one-penny sales surtax for transportation did not garner enough votes for passage,” Demings said in a prepared statement Tuesday night. “I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to get the measure on the ballot and those who hit the campaign trail. Despite this outcome, Orange County is and will always be a great place to live, work and play.” 

Local mayors said they are disappointed with the outcome.

“The failure of the transportation sales tax will impact the town of Oakland and limit our opportunities to extend Lynx service to Oakland and provide resources for the future fruition of complete street projects and intersection improvements,” Oakland Mayor Kathy Stark said. “This will also impact the quality of life — and not just the town of Oakland but all of Orange County. I’m disappointed that this failed.”

Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien said he hopes the referendum will come before voters again in the future.

“While I’m disappointed in the result tonight on the Orange County Transportation Initiative, I understand the concerns of those who would fund the surtax,” O’Brien said. “It’s my hope that when the climate is right, Orange County residents will see the value in investing in transportation and mobility improvements for all of Orange County.”

Winter Garden Mayor John Rees said he believes voters still had too many questions regarding how the tax would benefit them.

“I think in terms of the city itself and city-controlled roads, there won’t be as much of a major impact,” Rees said. “But I think we may see the impact on the major arteries that we could have done something with. We let the voters decide, and I think in talking with people here in West Orange County and in Winter Garden — they had a lot of questions. … What roads would be impacted in Orange County, or what specific projects could be taking place in our local area?” 

Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson said the outcome reflects the will of the people.

“The citizens didn’t pass it, so that’s the way it is,” he said. “We (Ocoee) could’ve used it. There were roads that we are likely doing in the city … (where) we could’ve used it. But we have to do what we do with what we have. … The citizens are the ones to tell you what to do and not to do, and they said no. … We’ve got a good budget, we’ve got things laid out to do and some of the roads will be affected when we come in with impact fees that we take in for new buildings, so that will help us do that.”

Following four years with Democrat Randolph Bracy and another six years with Democrat Kamia Brown, Florida House District 45 now will be represented by a Republican.

Carolina Amesty defeated Democrat Allie Braswell by garnering 54.3% of the vote. She becomes the first Venezuelan American in history to be elected to the Florida House.

Amesty celebrated her victory at a watch party at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

During the campaign, Amesty touted her support of Gov. Ron DeSantis and promised to work to oppose President Joe Biden’s agenda. Amesty serves as executive vice president of Central Christian University. She also is a restaurant owner.

In a previous interview with the Observer, Amesty vowed to focus on issues largely related to the economy and how it affects both families and small businesses.

“I will take all steps necessary to ensure we help lower property insurance premiums, reduce property taxes and eliminate the tax on leases for small businesses,” she said.

Amesty also said she will host quarterly town halls and establish a Coffee with Carolina program to interact with her constituents.

“I’m here to serve,” she said.

Incumbent Maribel Gomez Cordero defeated Mercedes Fonseca for the District 4 County Commission seat. Michael Scott defeated Lawanna Gelzer for the District 6 County Commission seat. 

Maria Salamanca defeated Heather Ashby for the District 2 School Board seat. Alicia Farrant defeated Michael Daniels for the District 3 School Board seat.

Although an ordinance aimed at controlling rent increases in the county appeared on the ballot, the results of the election will not be certified.

That’s because Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jeff Ashton last week issued a temporary injunction after an appeals court ruled the ordinance should not have been on the ballot.

The appellate court’s ruling came after ballots were sent to military personnel and overseas voters in late September. 

The referendum, which garnered 58.84% of the vote, would have capped rent increases to the lesser of 5% or the rate of inflation.


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