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  • Transportation solution at top of 2014 legislative agenda

    Nov 12, 2013 | Read More News
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    With strong road networks tied to economic vitality and quality of life, Pima County Supervisors have put at the top of their legislative agenda a fix to a critical shortfall in road funding. none

    Road improvements rely heavily on an 18-cent-per-gallon state fuel tax that has not been raised since 1990 and is not indexed for inflation.

    One piece of the solution includes asking legislators to stop taking gas tax revenues that would otherwise be distributed to counties to build and maintain roads to supplement the state general fund. Over the past two decades, and with increasing frequency in recent years, the state has siphoned more than $1.5 billion away from roads.

    Even putting a halt to such expropriations won’t be enough to counter inflation and keep up with demand. The construction cost index has essentially grown 100 percent since 1991 – so if a project was built 22 years ago, we could only afford half of it today.

    In all, available inflation-adjusted road revenue has dropped from $680 million in 1991 to $549 million – a 20 percent drop in funding. But taking into account diversions, population growth and inflation, per capita transportation revenue from the state to cities, towns and counties has decreased from $184.39 per person to $84.41.

    Keeping pace with road needs may well require an increase in user fees. Supervisors in May called upon the Legislature to consider increasing the state gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon to bring the state more in line with the tax levied in surrounding states.

    A 10-cent gas tax increase, assuming a thumbnail analysis in which a motorist gets 20 miles to the gallon and travels 15,000 miles annually, would cost that motorist $75 – far less than the $723 the research group TRIP estimates it costs the average local motorist in repair and operating costs each year.

    “In a growing state where we are competing with other states for economic opportunities, unless we begin to recognize that we need to fund our infrastructure and transportation investments, we will become economically uncompetitive,” said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

    A supermajority of lawmakers would be required to increase the tax, but a simple majority could place it on the ballot for voters to decide.