Arizona Free Enterprise Club released a new report criticizing the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) proposed plan for the Prop. 400 half-cent tax.
The Prop. 400 half-cent tax, which started in 1985 to pay for public transit and then light rail in Maricopa County, faces strong opposition every time it comes up for renewal.
The report said the MAG’s proposal fails to consider the permanent transformation of society due to COVID-19, which significantly reduced the number of workers using public transit as people shifted to working from home and remained there.
A transportation bill dubbed the “Maricopa County Transit Slush Fund Tax” by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) is steadily advancing through the legislature, and its supporters say it will probably make it through the Arizona Legislature this year in a referral to the ballot. Senate Bill (SB) 1356 has passed the Senate, the Senate Transportation and Technology Committee, and the House Transportation Committee. Valley Metro’s new CEO Jessica Mefford-Miller said this week about it, “We are cautiously optimistic about SB 1356.”
It is National Sunshine Week, which celebrates transparency in government, including creating awareness about requesting information from governments through FOIA public record requests. In Arizona, there are two tools provided by state agencies which allow anyone to look online at some of the government spending by state and local governments. Although it is a minimal amount of data, it reveals some missteps and waste.
The Arizona State Treasurer manages AZCheckbook.com, which provides information about funding the state gets from all sources, including the federal government, and how much it is distributing to schools, cities, and towns. The Arizona Department of Administration operates OpenBooks.AZ.gov, which provides checkbook-level information about individual state expenditures, including on the city and county level.
The construction of light rail began in Phoenix in 2005, and was fought by property owners located in the way who thought it was too late to set up mass transit in such a densely populated city. Not very many miles have been built since then, only 28, in one straight shot in an L-shape throughout the Valley, with businesses and residences still fighting weak expansion efforts. The South Phoenix expansion won’t be completed until 2024.
Celia Contreras, who owns Tony’s Window Tinting in South Phoenix, says the construction effort in South Phoenix is harassing her business in order to shut it down, tired of her complaints. She says large trucks deliberately block the entrance to her business so customers can’t stop by, and have flooded her building twice. She posted photos of drains stating that the construction company was blocking it with cement, unwise during the monsoon season. Officials refuse to help her, and she caught workers on video making fun of her for having to temporarily close her businesses due to the problems.