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Phoenix files defense of Uber/Lyft airport fees to Arizona Supreme Court

(Getty Images Photo/Spencer Platt)

PHOENIX – The city of Phoenix filed a brief to the Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday making the case that its plan for new airport fees on Uber and Lyft are constitutional.

On Jan. 21, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed an action asking the state’s highest court to rule on whether the fees for rides to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport violated the Arizona Constitution.

Brnovich believes the plan violates a voter-approved amendment banning new taxes or tax increases on services.

The city, meanwhile, maintains that the plan approved Dec. 18 is legal, saying the fees are a charge for property use, not taxes.

The fees were scheduled to go into effect Feb. 1, but the city agreed to delay their implementation until after the Supreme Court ruled.

The city was required to file its response to Brnovich’s filing by Tuesday. The state’s reply to city’s filing is due by March 3.

The Supreme Court will then decide whether to make its decision based on the briefs or wait to hear oral arguments, which probably wouldn’t occur until late April or May.

The city’s plan calls for implementing $4 charges for curbside pickups and drop-offs by “transportation network companies” such as Uber and Lyft. The rate would increase 25 cents a year until hitting $5 in 2024.

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

Uber and Lyft have been operating at the city-owned airport with $2.66 fees for pickups and no charge for drop-offs. It would be up to the companies whether to absorb higher costs or pass them on to riders.

The ride-hailing companies have been saying they would end Sky Harbor service if the fees went into effect.

After the controversial fees were approved, state Rep. Nancy Barto filed an SB 1487 complaint to Brnovich’s office. That impelled the attorney general to investigate the constitutionality of the fees, leading to his Supreme Court filing.

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