Pinal County’s pending sales tax for building roads was back in the news last week when arguments were heard on a lawsuit that seeks to kill the tax. The county’s Regional Transportation Authority, meanwhile, has been collecting the half-cent tax but has not been able to spend the money. The amount is substantial, $17 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and $18 million projected for the current fiscal year. The five-year projection is $97.5 million.
Propositions 416 and 417 passed in 2017 — the latter, which imposed the half-cent sales tax, by only 1 percent. The transportation plan was designed to benefit the whole county, but widening of State Route 347 in the Maricopa area and a new north-south route down through the Coolidge-Florence area were especially popular with residents in those locations. Casa Grandeans were less supportive at first, but city officials bought into the proposal due to inclusion of some major projects. That included support for a freeway interchange at Kortsen Road, which will have to happen eventually. Developers were behind the overall proposal in a big way, as they see Pinal County becoming an even larger target for activity.
A cap of $10,000 on taxable purchases brought more acceptance, although that became a source of contention with opponents. The variable rate became a basis for the challenge.
Adding new taxes is not popular — for a reason. But the state has been reluctant to raise gasoline taxes, which would solve some problems as Arizona’s population grows. Pinal County and local officials decided to take the matter into their own hands, and that is commendable.
A decision is awaited from the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1. If the opposition prevails, a new approach will be needed. What that is remains to be seen, but the amount collected shows what could be done to help the roads keep up with growth.