Hello all,

RURAL TRANSPORTATION PRIORITY PROJECTS:

HB2543, the rural transportation priority project bill, passed its last of four committee assignments, clearing the Senate Appropriations Committee last week by a 10-0 vote. A big thank you to the following individuals who testified in support:

Arizona State Representative (and the bill sponsor) Tim Dunn
RTAC Chairman, Graham County Supervisor Paul David
RTAC Vice-Chairman, Lake Havasu City Councilmember Nancy Campbell
State Transportation Board Chairman & RTAC Board Member, Yuma Councilmember Gary Knight
Yuma MPO Executive Director Crystal Figueroa
Coconino County representative Todd Madeksza
Resolution Copper representative Mark Cardenas

RTAC Board member, City of Maricopa Councilmember Vince Manfredi was also present and had planned to testify before the late hour required him to return to the City of Maricopa for a city council meeting. Numerous others attended to show their support for the bill including RTAC Board member, Chino Valley Councilmember Tom Armstrong, Apache County Supervisor Nelson Davis, CAG Executive Director Andrea Robles, CAG Transportation Planner Travis Ashbaugh, NACOG Transportation Planner Mike Huff and Yuma MPO Administrative Assistant Norma Chavez. Your vocal and visible support was very persuasive!

WHAT COMES NEXT - The 50-8 vote in the House, 5-1 vote in Senate Transportation, and 10-0 vote in Senate Appropriations are reflective of several things. First, we have helped demonstrate the demand and need for further infrastructure investment and the Legislature has heard that message loud and clear. The advancement of this bill and the vote margins indicate that lawmakers will once again prioritize transportation infrastructure with their available one-time revenues. Second, many lawmakers are more inclined to support transportation investment if they know specifically how the funding will be used. Our process of developing a list of projects with their scope, costs and timing was very well received. Third, the fact that 75 of the 82 projects in the original bill had some level of local contribution, and that collectively, local funding will pay for more than half of the total project costs also resonated well with lawmakers and reinforced our state/local cooperation and partnership. In particular, our rural legislators have embraced this process and appear to be pushing leadership to make it a greater priority in the budget.

Speaking of which, the committee hearings are over and the Legislature will wrap up its work on remaining bills and devote more and more time to drafting and approving a budget. At this time of session, typically all of the "money" bills that seek some level of funding, such as HB2543, tend to stop where they are in the legislative process and their subjects become part of the budget negotiations. It appears we are just entering this phase if you look at all of the "money" bills that are currently stalled, waiting for Rules Committee or Floor action.

The strong level of support shown for HB2543 will likely result in a very healthy portion of available one-time revenues being directed to transportation in the budget, and the bill's level of advancement will also likely boost the prospects for each individual project in the bill.

However, that boost may not be enough for all. Unlike the bill, the budget will not be an "all or nothing" prospect. The budget process involves a lot of negotiation with individual members and their level of advocacy for the specific projects in their districts will play a massive role in the inclusion of each project.

Please continue to advocate for the support of the bill and all of the projects in it. But at this stage in the process, its becoming increasingly important that you also advocate for your specific projects with your legislators and urge them to fight for their inclusion in the budget. It is possible that legislators may go through a process similar to Congress and congressionally directed spending where each legislator is provided a certain level of funding that they can direct for specific uses in the budget. If this occurs, you'll need your legislators to use their allocation for your projects. Otherwise, their inclusion will be problematic.

Maricopa Transportation Sales Tax Extension Authority:

The other big transportation issue under consideration is the authority for Maricopa County to take to its voters an extension of the regional one-half cent transportation sales tax set to expire after 2025. A plan for a 25-year extension vote developed by the local governments and other stakeholders through the Maricopa Association of Governments,(MAG) passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Governor Ducey. There was a wide gulf between that plan and earlier legislative efforts this session predominantly around the level of funding dedicated to public transportation. As population and development densities increase, particularly in the region's inner core, the demand for public transit will continue to increase. Slashing the funding dedicated to public transit runs counter to the growing needs of the region and would not be politically supported by the elected local officials responsible for the region's transportation planning or the voters. It would also greatly diminish the resources available to combat air pollution and damaging federal penalties for non-attainment.

There are two bills currently under consideration. Both would authorize votes for 20-year extensions, prohibit the use of funding for light rail extension and modify the makeup of the region's Transportation Policy Committee. While a dramatic increase over earlier bills, SB1246 would cap public transit funding at 26%, still dramatically lower than the current 40.4%. SB1102 comes much closer to the status quo at 39% but also includes some preemptive language concerning the authority of counties and municipalities to regulate certain homeless shelters. The gravity of not continuing the sales tax does not appear to be lost on most lawmakers and efforts to enact the vote authority continue. Also, last week at the Arizona Transit Association conference, Governor Hobbs made it clear that any bill reaching her desk must include public transit funding at a sufficient level recognizing the region's tremendous growth and that she will not approve a bill that slashes such funding.

PROP 400 IMPACT TO RURALS:

I have been asked quite frequently this year if the loss of Prop 400 revenue would take funding away from Greater Arizona. The answer is a bit complicated. The short answer is not automatically or immediately - but there is great potential for that to be the end result.

How we finance our infrastructure is somewhat complicated. Some revenue sources are dedicated to specific areas. Some are broader and are shared by different regions and for different uses.

By law, Prop 400 revenue must be used within Maricopa County so there would be no direct loss of funding to the rest of the State. However, such a loss ($665M last year) would place a tremendous strain on all of the remaining transportation revenue sources, many of which are shared statewide. We have been under-investing in our infrastructure for decades and there is a substantial backlog of unmet needs everywhere. With such a dramatic loss of revenue to such a high growth area, there could be tremendous pressure to direct more of the remaining shared revenues to Maricopa County to offset some of that loss.

So, yes, there is a lot of potential for an expired Prop 400 to have negative funding consequences for the rest of the State.

Please support efforts to authorize a vote for the extension of Prop 400 in a manner that will meet the needs of the region. We can not afford the loss of this transportation revenue nor can we afford to create a dysfunctional infrastructure choke point in the population, economic and geographic center of the State.

An updated transportation bill matrix with the current status of each remaining bill is attached:

Sincerely,
Kevin Adam,
Legislative Liaison
Rural Transportation Advocacy Council