Valley leaders dismayed that Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed transportation tax ballot initiative

Jul 8, 2022, 12:12 PM

(Twitter Photo/@StreetsPHX)...

(Twitter Photo/@StreetsPHX)

(Twitter Photo/@StreetsPHX)

PHOENIX – Valley leaders from both sides of the aisle expressed dismay after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a bill that would have let voters decide in November whether to extend a longtime Maricopa County tax that funds transportation projects.

“Maricopa County mayors and tribal leaders unanimously approved this plan,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday after Ducey vetoed House Bill 2685. “It was fair for it to go the voters and let the voters decide if we want to invest in more time with our families and a better transportation system.”

Gallego said the half-cent sales tax is crucial to planning for and upkeep of freeways, roads and public transportation across metro Phoenix.

“It’s very disappointing that the governor is treating Maricopa County voters like children and making the decision for them,” she said.

Mesa Mayor John Giles also made his displeasure with the Ducey’s veto known, calling it “misguided.”

“Let’s not ‘California-ize our Arizona,’” the Republican mayor of Arizona’s third most-populous city said Thursday in a Twitter thread. “Rejecting this investment will force residents to sit in more traffic, wait longer for buses and light rail, and broadcasts to the rest of the country ‘do not move here.’

“This failure must be fixed by Arizona’s next governor, R or D. This plan has been worked on for years by cities across Maricopa County and would have simply maintained transportation investments that have historically helped the region sustain economic growth and prosperity.”

In his veto letter, Ducey cited concerns about inflation and how the proposed ballot initiative differs from the version voters approved 58%-42% in 2004.

“Targeted, responsible and sustainable investments in infrastructure will be critical as more families and businesses choose Arizona,” the Republican governor wrote.

“However, asking voters to tax themselves, prematurely, with colorful ballot language during a time of high inflation is not the way to address the needs of our growing state.”

The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature with bipartisan support. It would have put an initiative on the November ballot asking voters to decide whether to extend an excise tax that funds the Maricopa County Regional Transportation Plan for 25 years.

Under state law, the Maricopa County government lacks the authority to call the vote on its own or directly implement a transportation tax.

“This is a renewal of an existing program that has 37 years of success,” Gallego said. “The governor has blocked citizens from being able to make our own decisions.”

Gallego, mayor of the state’s largest city, said a failure to renew the tax would mean more time in traffic for Valley drivers.

“We’ve done a bunch of modeling and we see traffic congestion getting much worse without this plan,” she said. “It also means we’re much less competitive for federal dollars. Right now is the time to be making sure we get our fair share of federal dollars, and this veto hurts us.”

Because voters previously extended the tax through 2025, there’s still time to get the issue on the ballot before it expires. Ducey is in his final year in office because of term limits.

“I hope that whoever is the next governor of Arizona will understand that the reason we are successful is we’ve invested in our infrastructure and planned ahead,” Gallego said.

“So, if we get a new governor and a Legislature that’s pro-infrastructure we can try again, perhaps with an emergency vote. Otherwise, the voters will have to help collect signatures and put it on the ballot ourselves.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Debra Dale contributed to this report.

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Valley leaders dismayed that Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed transportation tax ballot initiative