July 7, 2016

Florida has more miles of toll roads than any other state

Just another reason why Florida has the second most unfair state and local tax system in the nation.

With 719 miles of toll roads, Florida has more than any other state according to a recent report from the Orlando Sentinel citing federal data. This fact highlights the findings of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) in its annual report Who Pays?

According to ITEP’s Tax Inequality Index, Florida has the 2nd most unfair state and local tax system in the country. The unfairness stems from the fact that Floridians in the lowest 20% of income earners pay 12.9% of their income supporting the state and local services while the top 1% of earners pay on 1.9% of their income.

A significant contribution to this disparity is the state’s reliance on means other than income taxes to fund critical services.  While income taxes tend to be progressive, meaning that those with higher incomes pay a higher portion of that income in taxes, Florida relies on taxes such as sales taxes and tolls to pay for the services it provides.  These sources of state revenue are not sensitive to a family’s ability to pay.

Lower income families must pay more of their income on items subject to sales tax just to take care of the necessities of life.  Similarly, lower paid wage earners, given the dearth of efficient public transportation in Florida, must often travel by car to get to work.  And, particularly in congested urban areas, this means they travel on toll roads or or spend a long time away from their families while commuting.

Nowhere is the impact of tolls on families struggling to make ends meet higher than in the Orlando area.  Consider the following facts and their interaction:

  • “Orlando has got a more fully developed, elaborate set of toll roads than really any other metro area in the U.S.” according to Peter Samuel, the founder of Toll Road News.
  • With its reliance on low wage jobs in the hospitality industry, Metro Orlando’s median pay ranks last among the nation’s 50 biggest metropolitan areas, and it has the largest share of jobs, 37 percent, paying less than $25,000 a year according to a 2013 report in the Sentinel.

State elected officials, looking to build thriving communities where all Floridians can prosper, must understand the implications of the systems they have established to fund critical public services.

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