Rep. Nancy Barto Threatens Phoenix Ahead Of Uber, Lyft Vote

Published: Friday, December 13, 2019 - 4:21pm
Updated: Monday, December 16, 2019 - 9:29am
Lauren Gilger/KJZZ
Nancy Barto
City of Phoenix
Thelda Williams.

A Republican state lawmaker is threatening to file a complaint against Phoenix with the Arizona attorney general if the city follows through on a plan to raise fees on rideshare companies at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

If successful, the complaint could be a hit to the city’s budget.

Echoing arguments made by the conservative Goldwater Institute, Rep. Nancy Barto said that a fee increase on companies like Uber and Lyft would violate Proposition 126. 

The constitutional provision, approved by voters in 2018, bars the state of Arizona or any of its municipalities from imposing new taxes on services. It also bars municipalities from increasing taxes or fees on existing services.

“The City of Phoenix ignored this constitutional mandate the first time it increased rates on ride-sharing services to Sky Harbor,” said Barto, a Phoenix Republican. “It should not make that same mistake when it considers the same proposal on Dec. 18.”

The Phoenix City Council voted in October to increase fees on rideshare companies. Rideshare companies now pay a $2.66 fee when they pick up passengers at airport terminals. The council voted for a proposal from Sky Harbor officials to increase the fee to $4 in 2020, and gradually to $5 in 2024, and to assess it on airport drop-offs as well.

But the 7-2 vote was made in violation of a state law that required a written notice of the vote be made at least 60 days before the council’s vote.

If the council votes again to raise the fees, Barto said she’ll file a complaint against the city with the attorney general that the city violated the Arizona Constitution. The Attorney General’s Office would have 30 days to investigate and determine if the ordinance violates the law.

If they find Phoenix violated the constitution, the city would have to reverse the fee hike or it would lose a portion of revenue the state shares with local governments.

Barto’s threat followed the Goldwater Institute’s argument that the fee increase violates Proposition 126. 

In a letter to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Goldwater attorney Jon Riches wrote that “the plain language of Prop. 126 shows that the city’s proposed rate increase violates the Arizona Constitution as both an imposition of a new fee and an increase of an existing fee.”

Phoenix council members who supported the fee increase have argued it’s not a tax on riders that use services like Uber and Lyft, but a fee on the companies themselves. 

They say it’s the cost of doing business at the airport, and no different than fees charged of any other company to do business at Sky Harbor.

Councilwoman Thelda Williams told The Yellow Sheet Report the rideshare fee is a “usage fee” on companies like Uber and Lyft for accessing the airport’s grounds.

Barto’s threat is the latest broadside against Phoenix since the City Council’s original vote. Lyft officials have threatened to stop serving riders at Sky Harbor if the council again votes to raise rideshare fees. On Friday, Uber made the same threat in a letter to city officials.

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