A transportation bill dubbed the “Maricopa County Transit Slush Fund Tax” by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) is steadily advancing through the legislature, and its supporters say it will probably make it through the Arizona Legislature this year in a referral to the ballot. Senate Bill (SB) 1356 has passed the Senate, the Senate Transportation and Technology Committee, and the House Transportation Committee. Valley Metro’s new CEO Jessica Mefford-Miller said this week about it, “We are cautiously optimistic about SB 1356.”
The bill extends a half-cent tax that has funded various transportation projects for 25 years, particularly public transportation and light rail. Originally known as Prop. 400, the tax will fund 12 more miles of light rail, 186 more miles of HOV lanes, 36 miles of bus rapid transit, over six miles of streetcar tracks, and 367 new miles of highway. Local officials can also use the money to create more bicycle lanes.
Out of concern that the funding’s priority is not roads, AFEC described SB 1356 “as a complete boondoggle. If passed and signed into law, most of the money would go to transit and pet projects.” AFEC warns, “this isn’t a plan to build roads and freeways — or improve how we move people from point A to point B.”
State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) said he voted against the bill due to the large portion for light rail. One-third of the revenue from the tax is earmarked for light rail and other public transportation. AFEC said the result of this tax over the last few years is “cities like Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe have cannibalized hundreds of millions of dollars meant to be spent on regional projects in order to build trains to nowhere. Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars for these boondoggles to provide transit to less than 1% of the population.”
Read the rest of the article at The Arizona Sun Times