Arizona’s Prop 104: Transportation Dream or Tax Nightmare? Bob Donley Reports

LBN’s Bob Donley reports that, via Proposition 104, Arizona residents will soon be asked to vote on whether or not to extend and increase Arizona’s sales tax to fund an increase in the light rail system in Phoenix. Donley says that the rail line’s tax record is no reassuring. [An earlier LBN report reported on opposition to Prop 104 by Phoenix councilman Sal DiCiccio.]

Donley says that the last time elected officials asked for a tax hike, about fifteen years ago, the voters went along with the .4% increase. Voters were told that the increased sales tax revenues would be matched by state and federal grants. Those funds, combined with increased transit revenues, would initiate a light rail service and expand the existing bus service.

Proponents promised more buses, says Donley, but produced fewer of them than projected. More hours of operation and more routes were also promised. But again, Donley reports, the reality fell below the projection. Another promise was more light rail miles than Phoenix actually ended up with. And as to the matching funds, the funds received from the federal government and from the state were less than projected. “And . . . far less revenue from light rail riders.”

Now, Donley says, many of the same leaders are asking that the sales tax hike be extended to 2050 and increased to .7%. Proponents are saying that matching grants will push the available funds to $18 billion, and there will be expanded routes for both light rail and buses. Opponents are asking why this time would be any different than las time.

Proposition 104 will be voted on in August.

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