By Terri Jo Neff |
Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a bill Wednesday which would have allowed Maricopa County voters to decide next year whether to extend a 2004 voter approved one-half cent transportation tax for another 25 years.
Ducey explained in his veto notice that his action was not about whether the 20-year voter approved Proposition 400 tax set to expire in December 2025 should be extended. Instead, he determined lawmakers approved House Bill 2685 with ballot language that was not responsible nor transparent.
“The language is not only biased, but it fails to include any mention of the increase of 20 to 25 years nor the changes to distribution for state highways, local roads and public transit,” Ducey wrote, pointing out the proposed ballot measure also does not take into consideration passage of the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
As a result, Ducey noted that what voters would have been asked to approve “does not properly account for the opportunity to properly leverage state dollars for federal transportation infrastructure funding.”
HB2685 passed the State Senate with only 7 aye votes from the 16 members of its Republican caucus, while the bill received support of only 10 of the 31 House Republicans on the final vote. It was introduced in March to replace Senate Bill 1356 which did not make it out of the House Rules Committee.
Ducey’s veto notice did not have much good to say about HB2685, but he gave a shout out to Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita for introducing various amendments to both bills to address several concerns the majority of Republican lawmakers had with the language of the ballot measure.
The amendments offered by Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) would have ensured a fairer ballot description narrative, Ducey explained, as well as provide more strategic insight into how the transportation and infrastructure tax dollars would be spent.
“Unfortunately, none of these amendments were adopted,” Ducey wrote, adding that asking voters to approve the extension as proposed “is not the way to address the needs of our growing state.”
Reaction to Ducey’s veto was swift, including a statement from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club which called the veto “well-deserved” to avoid allocating transportation dollars for bike lanes, trollies, and “little used transit” at the expense of critical freeway maintenance.
“We commend the Governor for this wise decision and for hearing the concerns brought up by opponents throughout the process as well as thousands of Arizona taxpayers who expressed deep concerns over the poorly drafted legislation,” the AFEC statement reads. “The real victors of course are the taxpayers themselves who deserve common sense transportation policy and accountability for their tax dollars.”
Also complimenting Ducey’s veto was the Arizona Chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus.
However, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted that she was profoundly disappointed by what she called Ducey’s shortsighted, anti-economic development, and “out of touch” veto.
One thing Gallego’s six-part missive did not mention is there is nothing in Ducey’s veto to prevent legislators from drafting a sounder bill next session and get it before voters in plenty of time to be decided before the one-half cent tax expires.