Local politicians differ on Ducey’s veto transportation bill

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed HB2685 last week, which could jeopardize funding for improvements on the northern end of SR 347 in Maricopa County.

What might Gov. Doug Ducey’s veto of HB2685 mean for Maricopans and State Route 347? The answers depend on who you ask.

Ducey vetoed the bill last week. Had he signed it, the measure would have put a 25-year extension of Maricopa County’s current half-cent sales tax, which runs through 2025, on the ballot this November. The veto likely pushes the voters’ chance to approve the extension to the 2024 election.

But why would a bill affecting only Maricopa County be so important to residents of the city of Maricopa and Pinal County? The northern half of SR 347 lies in Maricopa County, and that’s what has some local leaders seething.

Interim Mayor Vincent Manfredi said Ducey’s veto will have no impact on Pinal County as a whole, “but does have an impact on SR 347 as we would need it to pass in Maricopa County to provide money for the extra lane on the northern part of SR 347.”

Councilmember Rich Vitiello minced no words when discussing his view of Ducey’s veto.

“Thank God he’s gone,” Vitiello said at last week’s Town Hall of Ducey, who leaves office in January due to term limits. “So, that’s probably the easiest thing. We don’t have much more (time) to work with him…this is crazy, this is money that we all need to get things done.”

Manfredi also let his feelings about the veto of the Maricopa County tax be known, citing the significant funding that could be lost, and at least delayed. He said $90 million from the tax had been earmarked for improvements to the northern section of SR 347.

He also encouraged residents to vote to re-implement a Pinal County transportation tax, Proposition 469, that will be on November’s general election ballot: “Because if that doesn’t happen, we’re really screwed when it comes to the 347.”

Councilmember Henry Wade was a bit more measured, but also felt Ducey had erred in vetoing the bill.

“I believe these are two separate issues (the Maricopa and Pinal County transportation tax bills),” Wade said. “In that, I think Governor Ducey is being short-sighted by not considering the will or desire of the citizenry. Recent surveys suggest the voters are favorable of reestablishing the half-cent transportation tax as we are more than ready to take action to make our roads safe.

“Nonetheless, our current inflation woes will have more to do with how the voters will react to his veto to take the decision out of our hands. Kitchen table issues seem to always prevail.”

Councilmember Nancy Smith agreed with Wade and Manfredi they are separate issues and pointed out specific differences between the measures.

She cited the fact Pinal County Board of Supervisors have already approved Proposition 469 to be on the ballot in November, which Maricopa County Supervisors cannot do without the approval of the state Legislature and governor. (Maricopa County is the only county in the state with such a stipulation.)

She also cited a number of differences between HB2685 and Pinal County’s Proposition 469 that make comparisons difficult, including transparency, the length of the tax and that Proposition 469 will fund the specific projects approved by voters in 2017.

State Sen. TJ Shope represents Legislative District 8, which includes Maricopa. He also saw this as two separate issues.

“Yes, Governor Ducey vetoed HB2685 but that bill is in no way, shape or form, related to any of the other counties’ transportation issues, including Pinal’s,” Shope said. “No other county other than Maricopa requires the extra step of Legislative and Executive approval so I really don’t see them being connected at all.”

Former Mayor Christian Price, now head of the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance, said the whole thing reeks of politics.

“The reality is, in my opinion, this was a moment of political pandering,” Price said. “(Ducey’s) original statement when he ran for governor was, he wasn’t going to support tax increases. Well, he’s not making the decision to raise or lower taxes. The Board of Supervisors and the legislature are trying to give the citizens the right to determine that for themselves. So that’s just stupid.”

 Editor’s note: Interim Mayor Vincent Manfredi is co-owner of InMaricopa.