Transportation plan and half-cent sales tax pass in county ballot; local results split
By Dana Trumbull
According to the Pinal County Elections Department unofficial ballot count, Propositions 416 and 417 have passed this week’s county-wide vote. Pending validation by the Board of Supervisors, voters approved the Pinal Regional Transportation Authority plan (Prop 416) with 57% of the votes. The half-cent sales tax proposed to fund the implementation of the transportation plan (Prop 417) also passed, albeit by a narrow margin of 901 votes (1.94%).
47,061 registered voters participated in the all mail-in ballot election, which is approximately 24% of the registered voters in Pinal County.
The Regional Transportation Plan, which will be phased over a 20-year timeline, was developed with the intent of creating the infrastructure needed to attract new business and industry, as well as facilitating safer, less congested routes between communities and existing economic centers throughout Pinal County.
The half-cent transportation excise (sales) tax will apply to all purchases up to $10,000. On larger purchases, the excise tax will apply to the first $10,000 only. The tax is expected to raise $640 million over the next two decades.
The passage of Propositions 416 & 417 will not affect property tax.
Local Results: Prop 416
In Apache Junction, 9 of the 12 precincts approved Proposition 416, along with 1 of the 5 precincts in Gold Canyon. With 9,485 registered voters making their voices heard, 52% of the Apache Junction and Gold Canyon voters were in favor of the Regional Transportation Plan.
Local Results: Prop 417
Not surprisingly, the majority of Apache Junction and Gold Canyon residents rejected Proposition 417. In the months leading up to the election, Letters to the Editor and online comments expressed dissatisfaction with the mail-in only ballot, distrust of the business interests backing the pro voice, anger that state funds earmarked for infrastructure have not yielded promised results and doubt that the plan would benefit local residents. As expressed by Gold Canyon resident David Coward in a Letter to the Editor printed in the October 23 edition of The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News, “November 7th is an opportunity to send a message that communities need infrastructure, but this is not the way to pay for it. Voters have another choice in November of 2018. We can elect legislators who actually listen to the ‘people’s plan’ and not the corporate or special interest.” Coward encouraged readers to vote for the plan, but against the funding mechanism.
Many residents agreed with Coward: 8 of the 12 precincts in Apache Junction and 4 of the 5 precincts in Gold Canyon rejected Prop 417. With 9,480 registered voters making their voices heard, 55% of the AJ/GC voters opposed the half-cent sales tax.
With the passage of Prop 417, it is yet to be seen whether the legality of the tax will be challenged. Prop 417 states the tax will become “variable” when the sale of an item exceeds $10,000; however, the Goldwater Institute has threatened litigation arguing that a complete exemption of transactions above a set dollar amount does not meet the definition of a “variable rate.” The organization, a conservative think tank based in Phoenix, claims Arizona law does not permit such an exemption.
Participating members of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) who formulated the plan include Apache Junction, Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy, Florence, Kearny, Mammoth, Maricopa, Queen Creek, and Superior, as well as the Ak-Chin and Gila River Indian Communities. Supporters include Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy and the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce.