The voters of Hamilton County have made themselves very clear, they outright despise levies that fund public transportation. In fact, they have voiced a resounding “No Vote” four separate times, between 1971 and the last failed transit levy in 2002.
The last transit levy proposed to raise the county’s sales tax 0.5%, nearly just half of the 0.8% which is currently proposed on Issue 7 and the final vote count wasn’t even close. Voters shutdown the levy with 164,975 votes opposed, and 76,891 in favor of the levy. It has taken SORTA 18 years to levy another proposal but this time around the levy hasn’t met the kind of opposition it would have encountered in the past. Will 2020 be the year their levy luck changes?
SORTA leadership was torn for months on the decision to add the levy to the March or November ballot. Democratic voters, who would seem far more likely to support the levy than conservatives are more than eager to cast their vote for what is turning into a tight and bitter Presidential Primary. Locally another tight race has ensued between incumbent Jim Neil and Charmaine McGuffey for the Democratic Nomination for Hamilton County Sheriff. Both Neil and McGuffey are sure to have their supporters out in droves to the polls. If McGuffey jumps out in front of Neil it’s likely voters in favor of Issue 7 have followed suit. This compiled with the failed attempt by voters to secure the needed signatures to add the .25% sales tax referendum to the ballot, March is just about as good of chance as it gets for SORTA leadership. If the .25% sales tax referendum was able to be added to the ballot it is unlikely SORTA leadership would have felt good about the levy’s chances with two tax increases on the same ballot. More than likely they would have opted to push the SORTA levy to the November election which would be a completely different political scenario with energized voters on both sides of the political aisle.
If you are in the camp that opposes this tax levy things are certainly looking bleak. This is without a doubt the county’s best chance at finally passing a public transit tax levy by increasing a sales tax. However, there is just one thing, March 17, just so happens to be St. Patrick’s Day. Some may not know the true history of St. Patrick’s Day, but this is the day American’s wake up in the wee hours of the morning, celebrate their families 0.8% Irish heritage, and, oh yeah, drink heavily all day long. Patrons between 21 and 35 would consider remembering to eat on March 17 a win over anyone at the ballot box.
Am I reaching for optimism to shoot down this levy? Maybe, but isn’t that the luck of the Irish after all?