Jan 31, 2023 - Politics

GOP lawmaker wants voters decide on splitting up Maricopa County

A map of Maricopa County, Arizona, split into four separate counties.

A 2022 proposal to split Maricopa County is similar to Rep. Alexander Kolodin' s proposal. Image: Arizona Mirror

Two GOP lawmakers are proposing to break up Maricopa County into four separate counties.

Driving the news: Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, sponsored HCR2018, which would refer the plan to the November 2024 ballot.

  • Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, also sponsored a bill to split up the county.

Under the plans, it would be divided four ways:

  • The new smaller Maricopa County would cover the bulk of Phoenix.
  • Hohokam County would take in the southeastern part of the Valley.
  • Mogollon County would cover the Scottsdale area and parts of north Phoenix.
  • O'odham County would encompass the West Valley and more sparsely populated areas of western and southwestern Maricopa County.

Context: Similar proposals have been pushed in the past, but the issue gained traction after the 2020 election, when people who touted false claims that the election had been rigged against former President Trump began proposing to split up the county.

Zoom in: Kolodin tells Axios Phoenix a smaller county government would be more responsive to residents' needs, and he says the size of Maricopa County concentrates too much power.

  • He disputes that a larger county is more efficient, and says residents should decide if it's gotten too large.
  • Kolodin notes that Arizonans from outside the Valley have been complaining about the influence of "the great state of Maricopa" for years.
  • He also notes Maricopa County's problems with ballot printers in the 2022 general election, the cause of which remains unclear.

Of note: With more than 4.4 million residents as of the 2020 Census, Maricopa County is the fourth most populous in the U.S.

  • Metro Phoenix will still have 62% of the state's population no matter how many counties it's split into.

Between the lines: Three of the four counties would have to raise property taxes to cover new operating expenses, while property taxes in Mogollon would likely go down, according to an analysis of the 2022 proposal from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, largely based on data from Maricopa County.

  • Maricopa County estimated the additional staff in the new counties would cost about $155 million annually.
  • Counties would have the option of signing 10-year agreements to use preexisting Maricopa County infrastructure and facilities.
  • Kolodin was skeptical that high tax rates for new counties are set in stone, noting those figures come from Maricopa County's own analysis.

The other side: Maricopa County Assessor Eddie Cook tells us he'll oppose the proposal and that he's meeting with fellow countywide officials to rally against it.

  • He says it's driven by anger over the elections.
  • County Treasurer John Allen calls the plan "the opposite of good, conservative government."
  • Allen and Cook say new counties would require substantial new facilities and infrastructure, like jails and court systems, and would have to divide many of Maricopa County's assets.

What's next: Neither Kolodin's plan nor Hoffman's bill have been scheduled for committee hearings yet, so their support is unclear.

  • Legislative Democrats were hostile to Hoffman's measure last year, and Republicans only have one-vote majorities in each chamber.
  • Unlike Hoffman's bill, Kolodin's proposal doesn't need the governor's signature to go to the ballot, so he'd be able to sidestep Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs.

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