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Prop 400 Transportation Tax Fails: What’s Next?

By June 15, 2023No Comments

By Stacey Barchenger | Arizona Republic

With Arizona’s Democratic governor and Republican-majority Legislature at an impasse over the continuation of a sales tax that funds transportation projects, proponents of what is known as Proposition 400 are gearing up for a campaign to go around lawmakers.

That would mean a statewide vote, but the question that might appear on Arizonans’ ballots is still up in the air.

It could ask voters to remove Maricopa County from under the thumb of the Legislature — it’s the only county that requires Legislative approval before it can ask its voters to consider a tax increase or extension. Or, a ballot measure could ask voters to approve the tax extension itself.

“I think you’ll see now, this will shift to a campaign,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles, a Republican and a leading supporter of the tax extension. “We’ll start raising money and start developing messaging and developing a strategy for getting this on the ballot.”

While an initiative might serve as a leading option, it isn’t the only possible path forward, supporters say. Some hold out hope that lawmakers might have a change of heart, or said they would consider a more fractured approach holding elections at the municipal level.

“It’s a multiple-choice question,” Giles said. “We’re weighing what the best choice is right now, but this is too important not to happen. We will get this in front of the voters of Maricopa County.”

The half-cent sales tax first approved by voters in 1985 expires at the end of 2025, a tight deadline in the policy world where planning and projects take years on end.

Supporters of the tax say the billions in revenue generated have helped the Valley grow economically and paid for the development of freeways like the Loops 101, 202 and 303. Opponents have balked at taxing countywide to fund systems like light-rail that serve just three cities in Maricopa County, and raise questions about the overall effectiveness of the light-rail system.

Hobbs on Tuesday night pledged to veto a GOP-backed bill putting a version of the tax before Maricopa County voters after negotiations with Republican leaders ― House Speaker Ben Toma of Glendale and Senate President Warren Petersen of Gilbert — broke down.

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