N4T Investigators: Would you pay new tax for road repairs? - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Would you pay new tax for road repairs?

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Tucson - The question of how to pay to fix Pima County roads is scheduled to be up for discussion, again, at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting. 

The 15-member Pima County Sales Tax Advisory Committee recently unanimously recommended to the Board a half-cent sales tax for 10 years. The lawmakers have said if they approve the sales tax, they would drop the 25-cent property tax hike they passed last year. Pima county is the only county in Arizona without a general sales tax, but does have high property taxes. The sales tax would mean a family with a median annual household income of $46,764 would pay $69.00 a year. By state law, the tax would have to be approved by a unanimous vote. That almost definitely is not going to happen.

Supervisor Ally Miller (R-District 1) has promised to vote no on new taxes, believing the county transportation department spends too much of the Highway User Revenue fund, known as "HURF," on other things.

Miller told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "The problem with Pima County is they're using the HURF revenues to fund the head count, the department salaries and overhead. These monies have not been used to fix the roads for 20 years," Miller said.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says Miller's comments are "totally bogus." Huckelberry said, "The fact is we've been through audit after audit. And the auditor general concluded that none of the money was used inappropriately, it was used exactly for the purposes stated."

Supervisors' Chair Richard Elias (D-District 5) isn't sure he'll vote for the temporary sales tax. He's concerned about the impact it would have on the county's low-income residents. Twenty percent of all county residents live below the poverty level. The advisory committee suggests allocating one-percent from the sales tax for social programs for low-income households to offset the tax hike. 

Supervisor Elias said, "Frankly, one percent in the first year would be about $700,000. That's probably not enough. I think it's more realistic to take a look at 15 to 20 percent." In other words, Elias wants millions more for low-income residents. 

We asked a half-dozen County residents on the street what they think. Every one of them said they would be willing to pay the tax for 10 years as long as the money went towards fixing roads. To get a larger sample we asked you to comment on our Facebook page. About 90 percent of the respondents said they're strongly against it.

Amy wrote, "No, no, no! How can this insanity continue?"  Liz said, "They raise taxes and raise taxes and keep promising to fix roads. Our roads are still in horrific shape." John commented, "Only if they can guarantee that all of it will go to road repair and nothing else. If they use just one dollar for something else the tax is rescinded." and Terry asked, "What are our representatives for Pima County doing up in Phoenix to remedy this?...blame to go around a lot of places! Please remember who the incumbents are next election!!"

Huckelberry says it's not the supervisors' fault, it's the unfair revenue distribution by a state legislature dominated by Maricopa County area lawmakers. Huckelberry said, ""People create these false images with regard to, 'Oh yes, there's plenty of money.'  That's just completely bogus. And unfortunately, it misleads people into believing that somehow they can get the roads fixed if they can elect different individuals or do something differently. And that's just not correct."

Speaking of elected officials, a lot of the comments on social media blasted the supervisors for the bad roads. But four of the five supervisors have been re-elected, some several times.

If you have any story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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