Friends of Greenlight PAC filed its first monthly fundraising report today, reporting over $66,000 raised during March for its campaign to promote transit expansion in Pinellas County.
As the independent political committee for the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, Friends of Greenlight is pushing the countywide transit overhaul plan proposed by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website, of the nearly forty donations the committee received through March 31— totaling $66,350 in cash and $7,084 if in-kind offerings — the largest contributor was a $50,000 check from utility giant Duke Energy. The Pinellas Realtor Organization also gave $10,000.
Advocacy group Tampa Bay Partnership chipped in with administrative services worth $6,781 and $266 in office supplies while TBP chair Barry Alpert gave $1,000.
Palm Springs-based SEIU Florida Public Services Union also donated $2,500.
In November, voters will be asked to decide on a key provision of the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, a one-cent sales tax where an estimated one-third will come from spending by Pinellas County visitors and tourists. The new tax, from seven to eight percent, would replace the current ad valorem property transit tax.
If approved, the Greenlight Pinellas will provide the PSTA operating budget an increase of $130 million, allowing bus service to grow nearly 65 percent. Proposed changes include express bus lanes and adopting a more efficient grid system for improved wait times.
Supporters say the goal is to have riders wait no more than 15 minutes for a bus.
In addition to expanded bus coverage areas and weekend service, the PSTA would also develop the most controversial part of the Greenlight Pinellas plan — construction on a 24-mile light rail corridor from St. Petersburg to Clearwater Beach.
To educate the public on the need for expanded public transportation, the people at Friends of Greenlight certainly have their work cut out for them.
A recent study by StPetePolls, commissioned by SaintPetersBlog, found that only 29 percent of likely voters say they will vote ‘Yes’ to “approve the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum and sales tax increase on the ballot in November.” Forty-eight percent oppose the plan while 23 percent say they are unsure.
In a further sign of trouble, last week state Senator Jeff Brandes asked Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad to explore the Greenlight Pinellas financial activity. Brandes claims that $800,000 in taxpayer funds used in purchasing promotional materials could be a violation of state law.