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Arizona AG preparing decision on disputed airport Uber/Lyft fees

PHOENIX – Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said his office will issue an opinion next month on whether new fees on Uber and Lyft rides at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport violate the state’s constitution.

“When you’re the people’s lawyer, you’re on the side of the taxpayers,” Brnovich told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes Show on Thursday. “You need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to hold whoever it is accountable.”

After the Phoenix City Council approved the controversial fees earlier this month, state Rep. Nancy Barto responded by filing an SB 1487 complaint.

The north Phoenix Republican’s complaint required the attorney general to investigate the constitutionality of the fees and make a determination within 30 days.

“Our decision will be done on Jan. 17, that’s when the 30 days will run, and we’ll have an opinion, we’ll have a decision before then,” Brnovich said.

Barto and other opponents have made the case that the fees violate a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018 that bans new taxes or tax increases on services.

Phoenix officials have said the fees aren’t taxes, but are rent for using city property at the airport.

“We will make a request from the city of Phoenix for additional information to clarify what’s going on,” Brnovich said. “I think we’ve heard several different reasons as to why they did or didn’t do what they [did]. We’ll get that information and we’ll evaluate it and we’ll make our decision.”

The city could lose its share of state revenue, a third of its general fund budget, if the fee hike is found to be unconstitutional.

Uber and Lyft have both said they’d end airport service if the fees were enacted.

Under the plan approved at a Dec. 18 City Council meeting, ride-hailing companies will be charged $4 for curbside pickups and drop-offs beginning Feb. 1, 2020. The rate will increase 25 cents a year until hitting $5 in 2024.

Uber and Lyft have been operating at the airport with $2.66 fees for pickups and no charge for drop-offs.

The new plan also raises fees for other modes of commercial ground transportation at the airport.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes

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