The City of Maricopa hosted a public question-and-answer session with Mayor Christian Price and Deputy Mayor Vincent Manfredi Thursday night in a crowded meeting room at the city’s library and cultural center.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the ramifications of the state Supreme Court striking down Propositions 416 and 417, which raised money to improve roads in Pinal County. The court ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Goldwater Institute that the two-tier sales tax to fund roads, which only taxed amounts under $10,000, was illegal.
A variety of scenarios were discussed, options explained and feedback received during the 90 minute meeting. There were two main takeaways:
– The nearly $85 million the tax will have generated when it was canceled is likely gone and will not come back;
– There are no attractive road financing options in the future, at least in the short term.
Due to the Supreme Court’s decision, funds raised to date must be returned to the parties who paid the tax. Since this was a privileged tax levied on businesses, even though businesses then passed on this cost to consumers, the refund will go to retailers, not consumers.
The tax was to fund two major priorities in the Maricopa area as identified by the Pinal Regional Transit Authority: widening and improving State Route 347; the construction of the Sonoran Desert Parkway (formerly known as the East-West Parkway).
The SR 347 segment of it alone would cost over $350 million if built today. Price and Manfredi both pointed out that improving the SR 347 is first and foremost on the city’s wish list.
“The 347 is the first priority,” Price said. “It’s always the first priority. It’s the most important road for this city.
After outlining the situation, the mayor and vice mayor engaged the crowd of about 60 people in a dialogue about how best to proceed. It has been determined that there are two main ways to move forward:
– Put essentially the same measure, but with a single-tier tax in which the total amount of any sale would be taxed at the previous rate of 0.5%, back on the ballot in November as a 15-year tax . This initial tax was expected to raise approximately $600 million over its lifetime.
– Wait until 2023 or 2024 and come back to voters with a longer tax, maybe 30 years and potentially at a higher rate. Even at the same half percent rate, with growth in the region, this tax could increase to more than double the amount of the original tax.
Manfredi said whatever the county does, it is imperative to make the right decision.
“If we come back to voters with this, we have to be sure we get it right,” Manfredi said. “We already ate a bite of apple. We have to make sure that the second bite is the last and that it funds whatever we need to fund. Right now, with high gas prices and high inflation, people won’t be in favor of new taxes, so it might fail, and then where would we be? »
Price said that despite the problems associated with asking voters to step up in tough economic times, there are great examples of the benefits to come.
“The last five (transportation taxes) that Maricopa County passed are what built Phoenix as we know it today. The 51, the 101, the 202, the 303, all come from sales taxes that voters passed. So everyone in Maricopa County can see exactly what their money is buying.
Editor’s note: Vincent Manfredi is co-owner of InMaricopa.