Apr 4, 2023 - Politics

Metro Phoenix Prop. 400 transportation tax on "life support"

Illustration of the Arizona State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An effort to continue a regional transportation tax in Maricopa County is alive, but its fate remains uncertain.

Catch up quick: The sales tax, known as Proposition 400, was approved by Valley voters in 1985 and extended in 2004, but it is set to expire in 2025.

  • It has provided funding for almost every major transportation project in metro Phoenix, including the light rail and Loops 101, 202 and 303.
  • Valley leaders want to ask voters to extend the tax again but need approval from the state Legislature to hold an election.

Why it matters: Maricopa County has been ranked as the fastest-growing county for much of the past decade, and local leaders and experts say the Valley needs to invest in more freeways, roads and transit to keep up.

  • More investment in public transportation is also needed to meet federal air quality standards, leaders told Axios Phoenix.

The latest: Two bills that would allow the county to hold the transportation tax election are under consideration in the Legislature. Both seriously deviate from the transportation plan that a collection of Valley mayors and other county leaders approved in 2021.

  • SB 1102, passed in committee Monday, would allow 39% of funds to be spent on transit, a small percentage of which could be used to operate and maintain light rail but not extend it.
  • SB 1246 allocates 26% of funds to public transportation and also forbids light rail expansion.

What they're saying: Avondale Mayor Kenneth Weise, chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council, asked lawmakers to allow county residents to vote on the original plan passed by local leaders, which dedicates 40.4% for public transportation, with up to 14% for light rail.

Threat level: Rep. David Livingston, the Republican who was behind the bill that passed Monday, warned Weise and others that any chance of extending Prop. 400 "is on life support."

  • He committed to working with stakeholders on both sides of the aisle to get a plan that everyone can live with.

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