Ducey vetoes transit tax that was intended for Phoenix-area voters

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Wednesday vetoed a ballot measure that would have asked Maricopa County voters to extend a sales tax used to fund transportation projects, saying it was not not the right time given the surge in inflation.

He also cited a lack of transparency in the bill.

Known as Proposition 400, the bill was developed by a coalition of local leaders in the Phoenix metro area to help fund projects ranging from freeways and HOV lanes to light rail and streetcar routes. .

Voters first approved the half-cent sales tax in 1985 and extended it in 2004.

Had Ducey approved the bill, the measure would have come before voters in a special election next spring, which he said would “require unnecessary administrative costs” and “come at a time when voter turnout will probably be low”.

Funding for the 2004 measure is due to expire in December 2025.

Mesa Mayor John Giles, chairman of the Maricopa Government Association Regional Council, which spearheaded the proposal, said the measure could have avoided a spring election if the state legislature had passed it. earlier.

“The legislation was drafted before the legislative session even started. It could have been the first bill passed. If that had happened, it would have had plenty of time to be on the ballot in November,” said he declared.

Now, local officials will have to meet again to craft a new measure that will be considered by state lawmakers and a future governor-elect this fall.

The measure has the support of all mayors in the county, said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

Gallego blasted Ducey on Twitter. “The Governor is out of touch and clearly doesn’t trust the people of Arizona,” she posted. “By killing the bill, the governor seems to think Arizonans like to sit in traffic, waste time with family, and further damage air quality.”

She told The Arizona Republic that she believes the term-limited governor vetoed the measure to curry favor with “far-right fringe groups” for future policy efforts.

Local political consultant Chuck Coughlin of HighGround said Ducey “betrayed them” by vetoing the transportation sales tax after helping pass the state budget and water bill.

Prop. 400 has helped pay for some of the largest transportation projects in the Phoenix Metro, including:

  • Construction of loop 303 in the West Valley.
  • Expanding light rail.
  • Widening of the main arteries of the Phoenix metro.
  • Launch of the Tempe Streetcar.

The Maricopa Association of Governments, in a proposal, projected the extension would bring in up to $36 billion in revenue from 2025 to 2050 to help pay:

  • Approximately 367 new highway miles.
  • Almost 12 miles of new light rail tracks.
  • 186 additional miles of HOV lanes.
  • 36 additional miles of bus rapid transit.
  • Over 6 miles of new streetcar tracks.

Giles called the veto “disappointing” and said it was a “can’t-miss move to keep up with population growth. … If we let (the tax) go, it’s like issuing a ‘please don’t move here’ sign to the rest of the country.”

The Tempe Streetcar stops at the Sixth Street and Mill Avenue station on May 20, 2022. Passengers can ride the streetcar for free for the first year of operation.

Ducey: That should have been changed

In a letter explaining his veto, Ducey outlined the changes from the 2004 measure and the proposed extension.

His concerns included:

  • An extension of the sales tax to 25 years, instead of 20 years.
  • A change that “reduces the amount of funds distributed to the regional highway network”.
  • A lack of consideration for how state dollars might be exploited.

Ducey also said the language used to describe the request was “biased.” He didn’t specify what he thought of the biased language, but he called it “colorful” later in the letter.

“Targeted, responsible, and sustainable infrastructure investments will be essential as more families and businesses choose Arizona. However, asking voters to push through, prematurely, with colorful voting language during a period of high inflation is not the way to meet the needs of our growth state,” Ducey wrote.

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Furious mayors react: ‘This veto is what’s wrong with politics today’

Mayors across the valley condemned the veto, saying transportation projects would be threatened and that Ducey disrespected voters by refusing to let them decide.

Local officials spent two years negotiating the proposal, they said.

“The governor has substituted judgment for voters in Maricopa County. He treats our county like children and says we can’t make our own decisions,” Gallego said.

Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat noted that the measure puts the decision in the hands of voters. “All he has to do is give the people who live here a choice,” she said.

Regarding Ducey’s concern that the sales tax has been increased from 20 to 25, Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said cities want it because the county’s total transportation funding need is greater than that. that the half-cent tax would have increased in 20 years. Rather than asking voters to approve a higher tax, they proposed extending the period the tax would have been active to make up the difference.

“It seemed more logical to leave it at the same rate and just increase the duration,” Hartke said.

Gallego said the measure was created with a bipartisan group of mayors meeting with tribal chiefs and business leaders. “That’s important. That’s what we’re looking for in politics today – where elected officials find a plan that works for everyone. That veto is what’s wrong with politics today.”

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said local leaders should band together to figure out what happens next.

“This is absolutely a very disappointing decision. We’re going to have to go back internally to the city of Tempe and with our partners across the region to determine what the next steps should be based on today’s disappointing news,” a he declared.

The veto leaves future transport expansion uncertain. The extension of the tax was essential for the fast growing areas of the valley. In particular, the proposed Interstate 10 relief route to parallel the freeway in the West Valley is now an unfunded plan.

Political consultant calls out Ducey for reneging on deal

Coughlin of HighGround called Ducey’s vote a “betrayal” and said it jeopardized 40 years of growth for Maricopa County.

Coughlin said his cabinet was approached by Kirk Adams, Ducey’s former chief of staff, to help win over recalcitrant lawmakers on the budget and the water bill.

“We were told to go help out,” Coughlin said. He said yes, knowing that the vote on Proposition 400 would come after the budget was finalized.

In addition, the chairmen of the House and Senate transportation committees pledged their support for the state’s $18 billion budget on the understanding that the transportation bill would pass, said Scott Smith, a another HighGround lobbyist.

Lobbyists said they suspect Ducey has a political motive: being able to boast about having introduced the largest tax cut in state history with the passage last year of a tax on the lump sum income, then to cancel the transport tax of half a cent.

“It’s his selfish ability to stop a potential tax expansion that voters should approve of,” Coughlin said.

Journalists Joshua Bowling, Sasha Hupka, Maritza Dominguez, Sam Kmack and Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Taylor Seely at [email protected] or 480-476-6116. Follow her on Twitter @taylorseely95 or Instagram @taylor.azc.

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