Phoenix Tax Increase For Transportation Will Be Up To Voters

By Al Macias
Published: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 7:33pm
Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 10:23am

Phoenix voters will get a chance to vote on an increased sales tax that would help pay for a $30 billion transit plan. The Phoenix City Council approved the proposal Tuesday that voters will consider later this year.

The tax would pay for a little more than half of the plan which calls for more buses, street improvements and expanded light rail service over the next 35 years. Federal and state dollars would make up the rest of the funding.

The proposal calls for a new tax of $0.007, which would replace the current $0.004 tax. For example, this would add $0.70 to the existing sales tax on a $100 purchase.

Councilman Sal DiCicio opposes the proposal saying the city is rushing  the decision since the current tax doesn’t expire for several years.

"The tax doesn’t expire until 2020. Let’s see how the economy responds," DiCicio said.

One of the issues for DiCicio and critics of the proposal is that $16 million of the tax would annually go to pay for additional police officers.

Resident Greta Rogers says the two issues should not be combined.

"Transportation and public safety are not compatible. This is water and oil, milk and vinegar," Rogers said. "It’s time to break these out into two separate issues."

Despite those concerns the proposal had many supporters.

Dianne Brown is with Arizona Public Interest Research Group. She said her group has found that there is a need for more light rail and busses.

"Arizonans are changing their driving habits, more are using alternative forms of transportation, fewer are driving cars," Brown said.

Supporters of the proposal say it’s necessary now because the current tax, which was approved by voters in 2000, will be about a billion dollars short of projections by 2020. They say two recessions since the tax was approved have led to the projected shortfall.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect the proposed tax would be $0.007. Also, the tax would make up half the cost of the plan.

Updated 3/5/2015 at 10:23 a.m.