Road Warriors: Pima Co. says AZ must stop taking road money
State of Arizona has been balancing it's budget--and making city and county governments struggle to balance theirs---by diverting gas tax meant for road repairs. Video by kgun9.comvideo
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says years of state government diverting gas tax money meant for local street repair have left Pima County unable to keep up with crumbling streets
State Rep. Vic Williams says it's wrong to divert gas tax money voters expected to benefit their roads. He wants provisions to keep legislators from raiding the funds.
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Pima County roads are rough, and riddled with potholes.
County officials say they can't patch enough potholes, because state lawmakers have spent years skimming away tax money to patch the state budget.
One local lawmaker says that has to stop but even if it does, county road maintenance will still have a deep hole to crawl out of.
Driving in Pima County can be a bone-jarring, car crunching experience and budget crunches have made things much worse.
You pay for roads with an 18 cent tax on every gallon of gas you buy.
But state lawmakers have been diverting millions in gas tax from cities and counties to balance the state budgets.
Pima County says since 2004, the state diverted about 20 million dollars from Pima's budget.
Pima County used to spend about $3.4 million a year on street repair. Now, it's down to about $800 thousand.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says:"We're reaching some critical points in our infrastructure that if they're continued to allowed to deteriorate they are beyond repair. They need to be reconstructed at a cost factor probably ten times what it costs to adequately maintain them."
Republican State Senator Frank Antenori thinks Pima County ought to be able to fix the roads anyway.
"The County gets quite a bit of revenue. They have the highest property taxes in the state.They have additional revenue from sales tax that goes to the Regional Transportation Authority for road construction."
County Administrator Huckelberry says: "There's not a single dollar earmarked in the RTA election for roadway maintenance. It's all for building new roads, improving capacity and improving mobility."
Huckelberry says Pima County's already using money it could use for law enforcement or courts, to prop up County Transportation.
Republican State Representative Vic Williams chairs the House Transportation Committee. He says over the last ten years lawmakers from both political parties have been addicted to diverting that gas tax money.
"The Democrats were doing this so they wouldn't have to cut spending. But more recently the Republicans have been doing this so they don't have to raise taxes. And it's a misappropriation of dedicated funds so people can hide in their ideological beliefs."
So far there's no plan to divert gas tax money this year. Vic Williams would like to pass a law, or a constitutional amendment to make sure lawmakers can't divert that money ever again.
That would require the co-operation of lawmakers who've been diverting the money. A constitutional amendment could make it onto the ballot without lawmaker approval with enough petition signatures.