‘Freedom to Move’ Bill To Ban Taxes On Vehicle Miles Traveled Stalls In Senate

‘Freedom to Move’ Bill To Ban Taxes On Vehicle Miles Traveled Stalls In Senate

By Corinne Murdock |

The “Freedom to Move” bill, a ballot referral that would create a constitutional ban on taxes or fees for Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and limitations on travel miles, SCR1002/HCR2018, failed to pass in the Senate on Wednesday. 

The resolution failed as Republican State Sen. Ken Bennett (R-LD01) joined Democrats in voting against it.

VMTs levy fees based on miles driven, generally for passenger vehicles only. Oregon implemented a VMT in 2015, and Utah implemented a VMT in 2020. The federal government has encouraged VMT pilots and enhancements through its Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) grant program. Arizona is a member state of the STSFA Road Usage Charge (RUC) America Pilot, as are 12 other states.

Bennett expressed frustration that he was unable to have “reasonable changes” made to this or any other resolution like it. 

The senator said that while he agreed with the desire to prevent limitations to free movement, he had concerns that the bill didn’t provide sufficient exceptions for governmental entities to monitor their vehicles for maintenance and employee reimbursement purposes. 

Bennett further noted that businesses brought concerns to him that they would be prevented from complying with or taking advantage of the state implementation plan through Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), and federal statutes.

“We do not want Arizona ever to be going down the road of what’s happening in other jurisdictions where they’re using VMT taxes or fees to limit people’s ability to move freely wherever they want to go,” said Bennett.

Bennett also claimed the bill wouldn’t appropriately apply to alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric vehicles. He suggested the legislature first come up with an energy equivalency calculation to bring alternative fuel vehicles into the process of paying for the roads.

“The growing number of electric vehicles is outside the HURF [Highway User Revenue Fund] revenue in this state, and we have to address that,” said Bennett.

Sen. Jake Hoffman (R-LD15) dismissed Bennett’s concerns as “patently false” and alleged that his counterpart knew that to be the case. 

Hoffman countered that the bill does allow for governmental entities to enact VMT monitoring or limitations, just not mandates for businesses, and that the bill wouldn’t preclude businesses from voluntarily engaging with VMT rules or policies. The latter was a provision added under an amendment at the request of Intel Corporation, according to Hoffman. 

Hoffman said that the federal government and entities bent on advancing environmental interests and policies were behind a feverish push for VMT.

“It’s called choice architecture, it’s a theory of the left. In choice architecture, you artificially alter the inputs with which people make decisions, so that the architecture surrounding those decisions changes,” said Hoffman. “You raise the price of gas to an unreasonable level, well, what’s the resulting behavior? They don’t drive as much.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Republican State Sen. Frank Carroll (R-LD28) voted against SCR1002/HCR2018. Sen. Carroll voted in favor of the resolution.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Legislator Proposes Breaking Up Maricopa Into Four Counties

Legislator Proposes Breaking Up Maricopa Into Four Counties

By Corinne Murdock |

Maricopa County might become four counties, per a new resolution seeking to break up the fourth-largest county in the nation.

HCR2018 wants to shrink Maricopa County, then divide the remaining land into three counties named after Native American tribes that once populated the Valley and southern area of the state: Hohokam, Mogollon, and O’odham. The bill sponsor is State Rep. Alex Kolodin, cosponsored by State Reps. Joseph Chaplik, David Marshall, and Barbara Parker.

Kolodin told AZ Free News that the initiative is a continuation of a bill run last year; however, since this year’s version is a resolution it will ultimately be up to the voters to decide Maricopa County’s fate. Kolodin shared that voters discussed breaking up Maricopa County with him often on the campaign trail last year. The dissent to the proposal that he did hear concerned an increase in costs, but Kolodin said he thinks the opposite would be true.

“It’s never been my experience in government that having it smaller and more conservative increases costs,” said Kolodin. “There’s an optimal size for counties, and that’s not having a county board of supervisors that oversees over three-quarters of a million people. That’s more than a congressman.”

Kolodin noted that Maricopa County residents’ grievances with their current administration aren’t a shared experience by residents of other counties. In fact, he observed other counties having a positive relationship with their board of supervisors during his travels as a lawyer.

Kolodin argued that county officials should be able to pick up the phone and talk to constituents — a far-fetched concept for Maricopa County residents. The county has a population of about 4.5 million; Arizona has a population of around 7.4 million.

“Besides the problems of unaccountable government, people joke about the ‘great state of Maricopa.’ I think there’s lots of Democrats in Pima County that would agree that Maricopa County has an outsized presence. Counties should be relatively coequal entities,” observed Kolodin. 

Kolodin said that the restructuring would also improve elections administration. Maricopa County experienced massive Election Day failures stemming from their printers.

“One thing we’ve learned from this last cycle is that Maricopa County is too big to effectively run itself anymore,” said Kolodin. “It completely screwed up the 2022 election. It’s too hard for them to run it.”

We also asked Kolodin to weigh in on community feedback regarding Maricopa County’s rebranding unveiled last week. Some noted that the new logo intended to depict an orange cactus looked like a middle finger.

“All I can say is these guys have spent the past several years demonstrating utter contempt for their constituents,” said Kolodin. “I’ve been involved in politics for a while, and the constant feeling is [that Maricopa County residents] don’t feel like they’re heard. You never hear that about the State House, ‘Oh these guys are so distant, they’re so inaccessible.’ You might disagree with us, but you would never feel that we don’t care about our constituents. People feel like members of the board of supervisors don’t care about their constituents, and they just feel like they’re not heard.”

Maricopa County has struggled to fulfill basic functions like public record requests or, most recently, complying in a timely manner with an Arizona Senate subpoena

“They’re trying to run a state with a county’s infrastructure. It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Kolodin. “It gives rise to both arrogance and incompetence. The arrogance is they think they can thumb their nose at the state legislature. It upsets the constituents.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.