House Passes Bill To Double Pima County’s RTA Sales Tax

pima county

In a bipartisan vote last week, the Arizona House passed HB2109 which doubles the Pima County-wide Regional Transportation Authority’s regressive sales tax if voters go along. The bill is now under consideration in the Senate.

HB2109, sponsored by Rep. T.J. Shope (LD- 8) was rejected by a majority of Republican House members.

The County had tried to pass the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) measure, which had failed “four times previously and was far behind in pre-election polls,” but “succeeded in 2006 because of fraud,” according to the Arizona Republic.

At the time, Pima County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund “regional roadway, safety, environmental, economic vitality, and transit improvements.”

Since then, the Regional Transportation Authority has been mired in controversy.

In April 2017, the Arizona Auditor General found RTA, which is controlled by Pima County, “had not established specific performance targets and did not have baseline data for targets, thus precluding auditors’ assessment of performance related to congestion, mobility, and connectivity.”

Read the report here and the RTA response here

Specifically, auditors found that the “available performance data” they did have “indicated mixed result related to increased congestion, improved safety, fair pavement condition, and declining bridge health on roadways in addition to few opportunities to improve effectiveness and accountability related to target setting, performance delivery measurement, performance reporting, and revenue estimates.”

Much of the money raised by the tax has been spent on projects like an animal bridge, a road-widening to accommodate no-show or failed space companies, and a streetcar; all of which have done little to improve “economic vitality,” while over 80 percent of Pima County’s are in failing condition.

In 2013, ADI columnist, Jonathan DuHamel asked: “If the Tucson modern streetcar ever actually becomes operational, will it, too, just cannibalize the bus system without getting people out of their cars? Will the result be that Tucson spends almost $200 million in capital costs and $4.4 million annually in operating costs, just to transfer some bus riders to a much more expensive form of public transportation?

The streetcar did become operational in a very limited form. The answer to all of DuHamel’s questions is yes.

The animal bridge, more formally known as a wildlife crossing, is incorporated in ADOT’s widening project of Oracle Road from Tangerine Road to the Pinal County line. According to public relations material created by the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, “Totaling $11 million, these structures are paid for by voter approved funds from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).”

House Overview HB 2109: county transportation excise tax

Increases the county transportation excise tax to no more than 20% when alone or together with any tax imposed for the county transportation excise tax.


Current law allows a county transportation excise tax rate of not more than 10%. Rate changes must be approved by qualified electors at a countywide election. (A.R.S. § 42-6106)


1. Increases the county transportation excise tax rate, if approved by the qualified electors voting at a countywide election, to no more than 20% when alone or combined with any tax imposed for the county transportation excise tax for roads, of the rate prescribed under: the transaction privilege classification rates, the jet fuel excise tax rate, or on the use or consumption of electricity or natural gas customer subject to use tax. (Sec. 1)

HB2109 passed 44-16-0-0-0
John AllenYRichard C. AndradeYNancy BartoNLeo BiasiucciN
Walter BlackmanNIsela BlancYReginald Bolding, Jr.YShawnna BolickN
Kelli ButlerYNoel W. CampbellYAndres CanoYFrank CarrollY
César ChávezYRegina E. CobbYDavid L. CookNDomingo DeGraziaY
Timothy M. DunnYKirsten EngelYMitzi EpsteinYDiego EspinozaY
Charlene R. FernandezYJohn FillmoreNMark FinchemNRandall FrieseY
Rosanna GabaldónYTravis W. GranthamNGail GriffinNAlma HernandezY
Daniel Hernandez, Jr.YJennifer JermaineYJohn KavanaghNAnthony T. KernN
Jay LawrenceYAaron LiebermanYJennifer LongdonYRobert MezaY
Becky A. NuttYJoanne OsborneYJennifer PawlikYKevin PayneN
Geraldine PetenYWarren PetersenNPamela Powers HannleyYTony RiveroY
Bret RobertsNDiego RodriguezYAthena SalmanYAmish ShahY
Thomas “T.J.” ShopeYLorenzo SierraYDavid StringerYArlando TellerY
Raquel TeránYBob ThorpeNBen TomaYKelly TownsendN
Myron TsosieYMichelle UdallYJeff WeningerYRussell “Rusty” BowersY

Related articles:

Houghton Road “Cocoon” overrun by nature

Tucson modern streetcar creates fire safety concerns

Pinal County Transportation Sales Tax Found Illegal

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Under the leadership of Arizona Daily Independent Editor In Chief Huey Freeman, our team of staff reporters work tirelessly to bring the latest, most accurate news to our readers.