Photo by Jenna Miller | Cronkite News
Maricopa County voters will get to decide whether to extend a half-cent tax to fund highways, roads and public transportation, now that Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the Proposition 400 bill.
The Prop. 400 bill, formally named Senate Bill 1102, passed through both chambers of the state legislature on Monday with bipartisan support. But that was after Hobbs in June vetoed a previous version of the bill, which was also approved by both the House and Senate, but with only Republican support.
The passage of the $24 billion infrastructure bill was the result of months of work and negotiations among the cities and counties impacted by the tax and which benefit from the funding, along with the Democrats that run the Hobbs administration and the Republicans who have a one-seat majority in each legislative chamber.
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While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the bill, whose passage marked the end of a record long legislative session, Republican members of the far-right Arizona Freedom Caucus were outraged with the concessions that Republican leaders made to guarantee Hobbs’ signature.
“Today, we showed we can put politics aside and work across party lines to get big things done for Arizona,” Hobbs said in a written statement. “I’m proud to sign this bill into law that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, build and attract businesses, and help make Arizona the best place to work, live, and raise a family. With support spanning across political parties, businesses, workers and everyday Arizonans, Prop 400 will secure our economic future and give every Arizonan an opportunity to succeed in our thriving economy.”
If Maricopa County voters agree to extend the transportation excise tax for another 20 years, 40.5% of the funds collected would be allocated to freeways and highways, 37% to public transit and 22.5% to roads and intersections.
Voters initially approved the tax in 1984 and did so again in 2004, with the tax set to expire at the end of 2025. While the tax is only collected in Maricopa County and used for projects there, it also benefits rural communities, since it provides them relief from having to compete with the most populous county in the state for limited state transportation funding.
In the past, the tax has funded the projects like the light rail, State Route 51, State Route 24 and Loops 101, 202 and 303.
Members of the Freedom Caucus balked at some of the concessions that Republican leadership made to ensure that Hobbs would sign the bill, which included putting only one question to voters, asking if they would fund the tax for highways, roads and public transportation for another 20 years, instead of separating out the question about public transportation.
Republican Rep. Alexander Kolodin, a member of the Arizona Freedom Caucus, said he believed that, if separate questions were posed to the voters, they would fund roads but not public transportation.
But the new version of the bill also limits the funding for public transportation, stipulating that it could go toward upkeep of the light rail, but not any new light rail lines, and taking away funding from cities who operate their public transit inefficiently.
Despite the Freedom Caucus’s complaints, Republican leaders lauded the bill’s passage as a win for bipartisanship and conservatism.
“Following months of intense negotiations, Republicans are sending the voters the option to approve the most conservative transportation plan in our state’s history,” Senate President Warren Petersen said in a statement. “The guardrails, taxpayer protections and funding allocations in the text of this bill reflect the priorities of voters, to reinvest their tax dollars in the transportation modes they use most.”
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