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Jacksonville's gas tax survives; you'll pay more starting Jan. 1

The shut down of the Colonial Pipeline following a cyberattack is prompting speculation about what could happen to gasoline and diesel prices ahead of Memorial Day.
Rick Bowmer
Jacksonville's local gas tax will double to 12 cents on Jan. 1.

Jacksonville city leaders have decided not to turn back a 6-cent increase in the local gasoline tax, allowing it to take effect with the turn of the year.

The City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with a tax that will double the existing 6-cent tax, reaching the maximum allowed under Florida law.

Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber filed the proposed repeal because of rising gas prices and the burden she says inflation is placing on people’s budgets.

“This is about raising taxes. It’s about whether you want to raise taxes on Jan. 1 or you don’t,” Cumber said. “It’s good government when legislators can look at a bill and say, 'You know what, I may have thought doubling the tax in May was a good idea, but things have changed.'”

Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson, one of 13 council members who voted to keep the gas tax, said government bodies need to be able to rely on council to stick to its word.

Jackson said, “‘Reasonable reliance’ is that the JTA built its budget in anticipation of the [tax increase]. ‘Reasonable reliance’ is we told our neighbors we were anticipating 7,600 jobs for working-class folks because of this.”

The tax revenue will fund local infrastructure priorities including the Emerald Trail network of trails and parks, the Ultimate Urban Circulator Skyway replacement project, improvements for dangerous intersections, and resilience efforts to protect against flooding.

In a separate vote, council appropriated $600,000 for a Mental Health Offender Program, a jail diversion program to help misdemeanor offenders with mental health issues break the cycle of repeated arrests. The program provides medical, dental, behavioral health and substance abuse care, as well as support finding and keeping housing. A similar program in Miami-Dade is credited with reducing the daily jail population from 7,000 to 4,000.

The program came out of the Social Justice and Community Investment Special Committee, where community members said mental health support was of the highest priority.

Councilman Ron Salem increased the appropriation from $400,000 to $600,000 by diverting an extra $200,000 from a pool of money that was meant for waterways improvements but was not matched by the Florida Inland Navigation District.

“It’s time the city started investing in mental health. I don’t care where the money comes from,” Councilman Reggie Gaffney said. “Mental health is a big problem in our city. This is going to reduce costs on the jailhouse, on the courts. Even if we have to pull money from Peter to pay Paul, there's nothing more important than mental health.”

Sydney manages community engagement programs like WJCT News' Coronavirus Texting Service. Originally from the mountains of upstate New York, she relocated to Jacksonville from Kentucky, where she reported on Appalachia's coal industry.