Election Watch: Phoenix Proposition 104

prop104Last week I posted story summarizing data on transportation ballot measures so far this year. This week, I’ll focus in a little more on elections of interest. Coming up in August, there will be several key ballot measures around the U.S.  One such measure, which faces voters in Phoenix on August 25th, calls for increasing a 0.4-cent transit sales tax to 0.7 cents to be imposed for a period of 35 years. This measure is estimated to raise an additional $18 billion from 2015 to 2050 and will help fund rail and other transit projects in the Phoenix region.  The official ballot language for this proposition reads as follows:

Proposition 104
An Ordinance To Fund A Comprehensive Transportation Plan For Phoenix To Maintain And Expand The Light Rail and Bus Systems, Improve City Streets And Roadways, And Provide Phoenix Residents With More Transportation Choices.

Description
Chapter 14 of the Phoenix City Code shall be amended where applicable to set the portion of the transaction privilege and use tax rate for transportation to seven-tenths of one penny per dollar for a period of 35 years beginning on January 1, 2016.

The funds will support a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation plan that provides Phoenix residents with more transportation choices, including light rail and buses, as well as builds and improves public streets and roadways. To advance transparency, public input, and government accountability, all expenditures under this plan shall be reviewed by a Citizens Transportation Committee.

The revenues raised may be spend for activities including the following:

  • Expanding light rail and high-capacity transit to serve more Phoenix neighborhoods and employment, education and entertainment centers;
  • Adding bus service to unserved major arterial streets and increasing bus service frequency on existing routes;
  • Extending bus and Dial-a-Ride service hours to coincide with light rail service throughout the transit environment;
  • Improving streets and roadways throughout the City by fixing potholes, resurfacing streets, increasing ADA accessibility, and adding new sidewalks, street lights, bike lanes and bus pullouts;
  • Building new roads and bridges and upgrading technology for more efficient traffic operations;
  • Increasing security measures throughout the City’s public transit system, including transit vehicles, bus stops, light rail stations and park-and-rides; and
  • Providing additional transportation services, including shade at all bus stops, wireless Internet technology on buses and light rail cars, reloadable transit fare cards, and real-time data for trip planning.

This measure also addresses City payment for utility relocation required by projects in this plan.

A lower tax rate shall be adopted for the sale or use of a single item of tangible personal property on the value in excess of $10,000.00.

Question
Shall Chapter 14 of the Phoenix City Code be amended as described above to fund a comprehensive transportation plan for Phoenix?

As is nearly always the case with a tax measure, there are supporters and opponents. The region’s major universities (Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Grand Canyone University) have all officially endorsed it.  Supporters have written op-eds arguing that having transit options was the sole reason why they decided to live in downtown Phoenix. MovePHX, an advocacy group of the project made up of city council leaders and real estate developers, also strongly endorses the plan and has set up a website and a blog discussing facts of the proposition. Opponents, not surprisingly, say that the only groups who support this project are those who will benefit financially:

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio is the lead opponent of Prop. 104. Other fiscal conservative groups such as the Arizona Free Enterprise Club also oppose the measure.

Free Enterprise Club President Scot Mussi said some of the business backing for Prop. 104 is coming from business and industries poised to benefit from construction contracts and increased transportation spending.

“The groups that are financially supporting the initiative are the ones most likely to financially benefit,” he said.

What’s most interesting is that Prop. 104 proponents seem organized and have united behind a single but coherent message while opponents’ “hell no!” message appears to be coming from disorganized mix of county and city GOP leaders.  This is surprising because this is a massive funding increase that, if approved by voters, will be around for a long, long time. While I have not been able to find polling data, the fact that city leaders appear to be divided on the issue possibly suggests that city leaders are calculating that this vote could go either way. No doubt this will be an election that will be worth keeping tabs on given the size and longevity of this proposition.

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