More Taxes Coming to Tucson: Even After Sales Tax Increase

Huckelberry announced Wednesday morning that he had a new property-tax plan to inject money into road repairs throughout the county. It involves raising property taxes modestly for what he says will just be a one-year period. This announcement came the morning after a city sales-tax election.

 This was relevant information for Tucson voters to know before deciding whether to raise the city’s sales tax by a half-cent per dollar for five years, to pay largely for city roads. But Huckelberry thought the information about his road plan might addle our brains.

“I didn’t want voters to be confused or for it to be used as an excuse for not approving the city elections,” he told me Thursday. “Frankly, we need both (plans), and we need more for a longer period.”

He’s not wrong that we need both the city’s plan and the county’s plan to start catching up with the repair and maintenance backlog on our roads. The needs, especially in the residential areas of the unincorporated county, are that big.

But the assumption that we can’t handle the truth disrespects city voters. The fact that the sales-tax hike won big in incomplete returns — 62 percent to 38 percent — suggests that knowing about the county plan would probably not have made a difference.

Still, the powers-that-be in town wanted to be sure. So they withheld relevant information from the voters.

LOW, LOW TURNOUT

The results of Tuesday’s city election served as an argument in favor of a bill that passed the Legislature in its waning days.

SB 1152, which the governor has not yet signed, limits local sales-tax elections to November of even-numbered years. The argument was that it would increase turnout.

Well, Tucson’s turnout in the mail-in election that ended Tuesday could hardly have been lower — 28 percent. I was one of the 3,000 or so who cast ballots at one of the city’s seven polling places instead of by mail. I don’t know if I lost my ballot or never received it.

I voted in favor of the sales-tax increase for the obvious reasons — to get more city roads repaired and better equipment to our police and firefighters.

I did not buy the reflexive arguments of critics, including the Pima County Republican Party, that the city can cut enough fat in its current budget to take care of those needs.

But the turnout was troubling and makes for a decent argument in favor of restricting sales-tax elections to dates when people are attuned to elections.

It’s likely, though, that the new law will never apply to Tucson. As a charter city, Tucson has won rulings in the Arizona Supreme Court against efforts to impose regulations on local elections.

There’s no reason to think the same wouldn’t hold true of this bill if it’s signed into law.

More at Source: Steller’s Notebook: Tucson voters can’t handle the truth | Latest Tim Steller columns | tucson.com

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