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New optional tax for community colleges goes to the ballot

Three down and six more to go. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission approved 23-1 a plan to ask voters to give counties the ability to raise the local sales tax to improve community colleges.

Under the proposal by Commissioner Roberto Martinez, counties could put a referendum before voters that raises either sales taxes to pay for community college development. The additional sales tax would sunset after five years, unless it is re-enacted. Commissioners removed from the proposal the additional option to allow for a similar referendum to raise property taxes for community colleges instead of a sales tax.

The committee heard from business leaders and community college officials who supported the proposal. Miami Dade Community College President Eduardo Padron called it the "most democratic'' of the proposed amendments before the commission.

"Rather than a mandate, it provides people to have make a difference for the welfare and the promise of their prospective communities.''

Commissioner Susan Story called it a good deal for Florida. "If you look at statistics, over the next 10 years in Florida, 60 percent of the jobs in Florida are going to require postsecondary education, but not necessarily four-year degress,'' she said. "Our economy cannot stand not to continue to support community college. They make a little bit of money go a long way.''

Commissioner Richard Corcoran was the sole no vote. Commissioner Bruce Kyle had left the room.