In an expected move, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to appeal a recent ruling that struck down the legality of a county-wide sales tax.
The 4-1 vote by supervisors allows the case — Harold Vangilder, et al. v. Arizona Department of Revenue, et al. — to move to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
A statement published by the Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority last week on its website indicated an appeal was anticipated no matter the the board’s decision.
“At the end of the day, whoever won, we know this would be appealed,” said Maricopa Mayor Christian Price, an RTA board member.
The RTA’s half-cent sales tax approved by voters in November, and implemented in April, would fund new roads and improvements.
The 20-year transportation plan included the widening of State Route 347, an expansion of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and other projects directly affecting Maricopa.
The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based conservative think tank, filed suit in December arguing the tax was illegal.
A Maricopa County Superior Court tax judge later denied the organization’s motion to delay the tax’s implementation but ruled the county must collect the funds in escrow while the parties litigate.
Last week, Judge Christopher Whitten ruled the tax violates state law.
In an interview Monday, Price said it’s unknown what will happen with the tax going forward because the case is expected to be heard in court again.
The tax would likely stop being collected, Price speculated, while the existing tax would be held in escrow.
Casa Grande resident Harold Vangilder, a plaintiff in the case, asked supervisors to accept the court’s recent verdict during Wednesday’s meeting and further requested the supervisors vote against the appeal.
“I believe, as a conservative, that any tax increase imposed by government is an admission that the government cannot figure it out – that they’re going to solve whatever problem they’re facing on my back,” Vangilder said.
Whitten wrote in a July 18 court document that Vangilder had no standing as a plaintiff in the case, a fact which county supervisor and board vice chairman Pete Rios addressed during his motion to approve the appeal.
“I’m just sad that Mr. Vangilder, as passionate as he is about this issue, that he was ruled by the court as having no standing to bring the lawsuit, but your name is still on the case,” Rios said.
Price said an appellate court ruling is not likely to come in 2018.
“We are thinking that a decision won’t be rendered until next spring.”