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Southwestern States Considering Local Option Bills to Raise Money for Infrastructure


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Frustrated over growing transportation needs that aren’t being filled with state dollars, legislators in Arizona and New Mexico are sponsoring bills that would allow cities and counties to vote to tax themselves to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Arizona’s auditor general reported in 2015 that the state was facing a $62.7 billion transportation funding shortfall over the next 20 years. New Mexico’s current shortfall is $1.3 billion, according to its Department of Transportation.

However, the states’ Republican governors, Doug Ducey of Arizona and Susana Martinez of New Mexico, are anti-tax hardliners, which threatens the bills’ chances of passage. 

“There are a lot of local jurisdictions that are tired of waiting for the state to do something for infrastructure, kind of like the states are tired of waiting for the federal government to do something,” said Tony Bradley, president of the Arizona Trucking Association. “They want to have the option to have their future in their hands. The roads drop off dramatically outside Maricopa County [metropolitan Phoenix] which has a half cent sales tax to fund roads.”

Senate Transportation Committee chairman Bob Worsley, who sponsored Arizona’s local option bill, has also proposed taxing electric and hybrid vehicles along with users of compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas while also raising license fees.

Kevin Adam of the Rural Transportation Advocacy Council called Worsley’s bill “a step in the right direction.”

Bradley added, “For the past four years, when I have a conversation about the gas tax, it usually stops with, ‘We’ve got to do something about those electric vehicles. They don’t pay anything for our roads.’ Until we can get past that, people don’t want to have the conversation about a gas tax increase.”

Arizona hasn’t raised fuel taxes since 1991, New Mexico since 1993.

In addition to its local option bill, New Mexico legislators are considering: SB 95, authored by Transportation Committee Chairman Clemente Sanchez, which would raise the taxes on diesel a nickel to 26 cents per gallon and on gas a dime to 27 cents per gallon; and SB 131, co-authored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith and House Transportation Committee Chairman Roberto Gonzales, that would split the revenue from a 10 cents per gallon fuel tax increase between infrastructure needs and the state’s badly depleted reserve fund until the latter has recovered or five years, whichever comes first.

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By David Elfin
Staff Reporter


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