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Hobbs And Legislature Headed For A Showdown Over Prop 400

June 14, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Governor Katie Hobbs and the Republican-led legislature are headed for another showdown.

This week, Arizona Republicans introduced and passed their proposal for a Prop 400 resolution, sending their legislation to the Governor’s Office. According to a press release from the Arizona State Senate Republican Caucus, “The Proposition 400 extension supported by Republican Legislators and outlined in SB 1246 establishes two questions to be placed on the ballot. Question number one covers funding for freeways, arterial roads and the bus program. If voters approve the proposed 0.43% sales tax on question number one, this plan would increase funding for highway projects by $1.47 billion more than the proposal being pushed by Governor Katie Hobbs and the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). It would also shift $1 billion from undefined uses like ‘active transportation’ and ‘air quality’ to actual arterial road projects that drivers use every day. If voters approve the proposed 0.065% sales tax on question two, MAG will receive their request for light rail rehabilitation.”

SB 1246, as amended, passed the state house with a 31-26 vote (three members not voting) and the state senate with a 16-12 tally (two members not voting).

Senate President Warren Petersen defended his side’s proposal, saying, “MAG’s proposal is a shell game, where local road project funds are diminished to allow for light rail expansion. Our Prop. 400 extension proposal allows voters to fully evaluate the transportation plan on its merits to determine which funding options best fit their preferred commute patterns. If voters approve question one and reject question two, the valley’s freeways, arterial roads and bus program will be fully funded, and the sales tax will be reduced by 13%.”

House Speaker Ben Toma spoke in support of the legislation before voting Tuesday, stating, “This has been a long time coming, and Maricopa County voters deserve real choices in how their sales taxes continue to get spent. Transparent Prop 400 expansion gives voters that real choice and puts Arizona’s critical infrastructure first. Rather than mixing vague, controversial projects with real improvements to freeways, major roads, and buses, SB 1246 moves over a billion dollars from undefined programs to actual road projects… In short, this transparent extension puts Maricopa County residents first and fulfills our commitment to smart and responsible spending.”

Shortly after the Legislature’s actions on Tuesday, the governor promised a veto on the Republicans’ plan, tweeting, “From day one, I promised I would be laser-focused on growing our economy and bringing high-paying jobs to our state for Arizona workers. Republican leadership’s partisan bill does neither of those things, and will be vetoed when it reaches my desk. Now, it’s time for legislators to vote on a compromise that is supported by a bipartisan majority in both chambers, business and labor leaders, and Maricopa County cities. Republican leadership needs to stop playing partisan games, put the bipartisan compromise up for a vote, and stop holding our state’s economic potential hostage.”

Before the Republicans passed their proposal on Tuesday, Governor Hobbs released a statement to highlight ongoing disagreements over a Prop 400 proposal, writing, “From day one, I promised that I would be laser-focused on growing our economy and bringing high-paying jobs to our state for Arizona workers. That’s exactly what this proposal does, and business leaders, labor leaders, and mayors across Arizona agree. But Republican legislative leadership is holding our economy hostage and holding back our state’s potential to be the leader in new, fast-growing industries.”

Hobbs then encouraged Republican legislators to make a deal with her on this pressing issue, saying, “I’m calling on those legislators to put their partisan politics aside and accept this compromise so that we can keep our economy growing for Arizona families.”

The Governor’s Office included details on the proposed deal, which included the following:

  • “Sets allocations at: 40% for freeways, 22% for arterials, and 38% for transit with the elimination of flexibility between the modes
  • Sets aside 3.5% for the capital rehabilitation of the existing light rail system
  • Includes proposed farebox language to provide statutorily prescribed benchmarks for farebox recovery consistent with our peers
  • Road diet language applies to arterial and freeway projects
  • Includes definitions for air quality and regional programs”

Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma took issue with the governor’s statement over the weekend, responding to reporters: “The Governor has chosen to be an uncompromising conduit for an inefficient MAG proposal that does not have sufficient votes to succeed in the House. I remain willing to negotiate, but their take-or-leave-it attitude is decidedly unproductive. We are prepared to move a more efficient alternative on Monday and work from there.” That alternative came to fruition on Tuesday.

The Arizona Freedom Caucus also pushed back on the governor’s statement, tweeting, “It’s ironic that Hobbs is pretending that she’s been involved in this issue for more than a few days. Hobbs has said very little about, and done even less, on prop 400 beyond this last week. Unfortunately for the people of Arizona, Hobbs was apparently more focused on firing yet another senior staffer and wasting the last month instead of being at the table on this issue with legislative leaders. Now instead of working with the legislature, Hobbs is choosing to shill for mayors to shove a wildly unpopular light rail boondoggle down everyone’s throats. Hobbs and MAG’s take it or leave it attitude is childish and impedes reaching a real agreement. It serves as yet more evidence that she has no idea how to lead or govern, and isn’t interested in solving complex problems, but rather just wants to play petulant political games.”

The governor has been chasing headlines over Prop 400 negotiations in recent weeks. On May 24, Hobbs used her official Twitter account to share an opinion piece from the Arizona Republic’s Editorial Board, posting, “The @azcentral editorial board is right: Prop 400 is critical to build businesses, create jobs, and secure our booming economic future. Arizona could face real consequences if we fail to pass a bill. It’s time for the Legislature to stop playing games. Maricopa county voters deserve the chance to make their voices heard.”

That tweet from the governor elicited a surprising comment from Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen, who said, “This is a bizarre tweet. We had just started a meeting with the governor about prop 400 while this tweet was sent out. Our plan has more roads, less congestion and is a better value to the taxpayer.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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