The Battle Over Highway Funding Is Coming to a Head in the Arizona Legislature

April 27, 2023

By Pat Nolan |

Arizona legislators will soon have to choose between two very different plans to spend funding from the highway sales tax originally passed in 1985. One plan, SB1246 by Senator Farnsworth, would keep faith with the promises made to voters that the sales tax would fund highways to relieve traffic congestion around Phoenix.

The alternative proposal, SB1102 by Senator Carroll, would siphon off money from road projects and instead fund “green energy” giveaways proposed by the bureaucrats at the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). SB1102 proposes to divert $2 billion from highway construction to fund bike lanes, walking trails, bus lanes, and other unspecified “special projects.” In other words, it establishes a slush fund comparable to the “Green New Deal” of the Biden Administration.

The Farnsworth bill, on the other hand, will fully fund the freeway expansions promised to the voters, and there will be no green slush fund. Also, none of the transportation money could be used to remove traffic lanes to make room for bike paths.

It also requires government-subsidized transit to operate efficiently and recover 25% of the cost from the riders, as they promised. In reality, the government-run system falls woefully short of that requirement, collecting a mere 7% currently. Senator Farnsworth’s bill will make public transit meet their revenue projections. If they fail to do so, private companies could bid to provide transit services and guarantee the revenue as promised to the voters.

The Left’s fixation with public transit has resulted in hundreds of millions pouring into the black hole of failing transit systems. Yet, despite the clear evidence that transit systems run by the government are a white elephant, they keep pumping more tax dollars into them. They cannot point to any city where the ridership has met their projections. The reason is simple. When pollsters ask the public, they say they want more public transit. However, when asked if they intend to use it, they say they have no intention of using it. They want other drivers to use transit to get those cars off the freeways.

SB1102 would help MAG pursue their far-Left agenda, which now includes imposing California-like restrictions on Arizonans, including banning the internal combustion engine and gas appliances. We must end such power grabs by the bureaucracy, and the Arizona Legislature can start by killing this bill and passing Senator Farnsworth’s SB1246.

The late, great conservative Senator Everett Dirksen famously explained the thinking of legislators when he said, “When I feel the heat, I see the light.” Taxpayers can hold legislators’ feet to the fire by telling them to vote NO on SB1102 and AYE for SB1246.

Pat Nolan is the Director Emeritus of the Nolan Center for Justice at the American Conservative Union and lives in Prescott.

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