The residents of the 8th poorest metropolitan area in the country, will be subject to a regressive tax after Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry puts the matter before the Board of Supervisors for a vote. Huckelberry needs an unanimous vote and knows he will not have it.
In a memo released last week, Huckelberry asked for a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax to pay for road repairs and cut property taxes. It is unclear why Huckelberry forwarded the impossible-to-pass-proposal.
It has become clear that Huckelberry’s proposed bond measure is unpopular, but road repairs are desperately needed and Huckelberry hopes the citizenry is just desperate enough to support his regressive taxing scheme. In the alternative, he can paint the sales tax opponents as obstructionist.
But with retail business boarding up on an almost daily basis, the business community will not support the scheme, which Huckelberry claims will reduce the primary property taxes.
Of course, primary tax rates are low, through unusually low and reduced property values, for some supervisors and their cronies.
Huckelberry also claims that Pima County is currently the only county in the state that doesn’t have a sales tax; however Pima County residents pay highest property taxes in the state according to Supervisor Ally Miller’s office
Now, Huckelberry says the County needs $264 million to fix the roads.
Huckelberry has tried to pass the blame for the County’s failed roads of the State Legislature. He claims the Legislature swept $38 million Highway User Revenue Funds, over a ten year period. HURF funds are gas tax dollars set aside for road repair and maintenance across Arizona. Those funds are shrinking due to better fuel economy in newer vehicles and the rising popularity of electric vehicles.
No doubt, the funds were swept away, but the Legislature was not alone.
In an article that appeared in September of 2013 in the Arizona Daily Independent, Pima County’s HURF monies swept away, it is noted: “over $841 million in HURF revenue has been received by Pima County since 1994. Of this, only $34 million total was swept by the state legislature over the last 12 years.”
In 1997, Pima County voters approved $350 million in HURF bonds, not knowing this meant no road repairs since the bonds were to be paid back with HURF funds. Those bonds were supposed to be used for new roads. Now, the HURF funds, which were intended for repairs, are being used by the County to pay off the bond debt, which was incurred building new roads.
According to an investigation by Supervisor Ally Miller, over $167 million of HURF has been diverted from road repair and maintenance to cover bond debt since 2004. This left $641 million available for road repair since 1994.
That was not the scenario voters envisioned, but allows Huckelberry to claim that the County’s books are in good shape when he needs to, and allows him to beg for money for roads when he wants to.
Failed Pima County Supervisor candidate, Mike Hellon, told the public at a candidate forum last year that Chuck Huckelberry has piles of money that he “stashes” throughout his 20 different departments. Hellon claimed that Huckleberry can find money when he needs to.
The one place Huckelberry cannot find money is in the pockets of Pima County residents; they are broke and growing poorer by the day.