Pinal County residents will have the opportunity to vote in November to approve a sales tax funding infrastructure improvements across the county.
For Maricopa, it could mean several direct improvements including additional lanes on major roads, including State Route 347, the securing of a right-of-way for the future Interstate 11 corridor, and public transportation expansion.
Proposition 417 would fund these projects with a half-cent county transportation excise (sales) tax. The revenue from Prop 417 would provide funding to the updated Regional Transportation Plan – Proposition 416 – which voters will also have the chance to approve in November.
The first phase of the transportation plan includes measures to widen State Route 347 to six lanes north of Maricopa and to create an “East-West Corridor” by widening Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Val Vista Road to four lanes.
Revenue from Prop 417, which officials are estimating to be $641 million over its 20-year lifespan, will be exacted on any business transaction involving the sale of “tangible personal property” in Pinal County.
There is, however, a limitation built into the tax.
The 0.5 percent tax would only be applied to the first $10,000 of income from any given item.
For example, if you purchase a car for $12,000, $2,000 of that would not be subject to the tax since a vehicle is considered a singular item. If you purchase another vehicle for $10,000 and then add $2,000 worth of accessories all $12,000 would be subject to the tax since additions are typically considered separate items.
Maricopa City Councilmember Nancy Smith said she rarely supports tax increases, but she will consider it if it meets three criteria: A rigid timeline, voter approval and specified purpose.
Smith said she supports both Propositions 416 and 417.
“I can’t help but say we have to stand up and help ourselves and apply this half-cent tax, which is equivalent to $88 per family per year,” Smith said.
Pinal County Public Works Director Andrew Smith said it’s important to note these issues will be on a special mail-in ballot only. Last year, he said, when the issue was first poised to be on the ballot, there was some concern with the length of the ballot given the nature of the general election and all the other propositions it contained.
Supporters are working against a “no new taxes” mindset among several Maricopans as well as cynicism about the cooperation of Maricopa County and Gila River Indian Community in widening SR 347 all the way to I-10.
Andrew Smith said he appreciates the concerns specific communities have about the tax and transportation plan and how it affects them directly. However, they should have a macro view of this plan, which will improve the quality of life for everyone who does business, has a job, owns property or lives in Pinal County.
“Try and look at it as a resident of Pinal County,” Andrew Smith said. “How do you get around? You do go to Maricopa County, you do go to Pima county, so this establishes a regional plan that will enhance the whole county and improve economic development.”
On a much longer timeline, the transportation plan is further considering the potential path of Interstate 11, which Pinal County hopes to bring into its boundaries, just west of Maricopa. Revenue from the tax will help preserve county rights-of-way in the area that could eventually give Maricopa direct access to the major highway.
“What I like about that being on the RTA is that it says our county is looking to influence I-11 and where it comes,” Nancy Smith said. “If we don’t have the money to secure the purchase of right-of way, then our chances become much slimmer at becoming part of that road, so I love that we’re planning ahead in that aspect.”
The Regional Transportation Plan also includes measures to improve public transportation by funding rapid transit services and expanding current transit services such as Park and Ride, Dial-A-Ride and Maricopa’s COMET.
Eligible voters should automatically receive ballots by mail. Voters can confirm they are on the mailing list by calling the Pinal County Elections Office at 520-866-7550.
This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.