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Lottery money needed for local transit

For 30 years, Arizonans have benefitted from a state lottery. The revenue from lottery ticket sales helps pay for a broad range of local transit services. Dollars from lottery ticket sales provides bus
service and specialized transit services for seniors and persons with disabilities in Arizona. These designated transit dollars help with essential transit services that take students to school, employees to work, and job seekers to potential employers.

As of March 18, the state’s primary source of transit operating money and federal matching dollars for expensive and specialized capital equipment was permanently repealed as part of the state’s budget solution. Oddly, not a penny of that money came from tax dollars or the state general fund, yet it was redirected so that the state could capture the already-designated revenue.

We understand the need for a temporary sweep of money from local infrastructure for state spending in these difficult times. But we don’t understand why the decision was made permanently. This elimination of funding will further harm job creation, job attraction, mobility, health, air quality and access to education.

Additionally and most troubling, it will leave thousands of Arizona seniors with no or extremely limited transportation options for vital needs such as shopping for food and medical appointments.

We must find a way to put this decision behind us and now act quickly to develop a way to work collaboratively to find a constant, stable and efficient source of revenue for these critical services.

The Arizona Lottery has enjoyed strong public support due to the benefits the program gives back to communities across Arizona by using revenue from lottery ticket sales in place of taxing residents. To see this creative funding option removed from the table is painful, but we feel it is necessary to start over by welcoming all ideas to provide this vital public service in a cost-effective manner.

Transit helps the economy in many ways because, especially in Arizona, it is one of the most privatized industries in the public sector. Like many public services, a partnership between the public and private sectors creates a viable synergy for transit. Public transportation requires intense capital, public support and strong financial accountability from our elected officials. This integrated approach
has resulted in progress that all Arizonans can be proud of.

Unfortunately, because of the state’s budget deficit, permanent sources of revenue that pay for van transit for our senior and disabled citizens, as well as local and express bus routes that keep cars off the freeway during rush hour and help those without cars get to work, will be reduced or eliminated.

Governments and nonprofit organizations are often asked to think creatively and “out of the box” about finding non-tax dollars to pay for services needed by residents. The lottery is such an avenue.
Removing this funding as a source for basic community services will have long-lasting impacts on Arizona’s quality of life.

During difficult times, many important services are being drastically reduced or temporarily shut down. Shouldn’t we avoid proposals that permanently alter our ability to address how we get to our jobs, our school and our medical appointments?

The choices we now face are not comfortable or ideal, but it is essential to address our present so we can ensure a solid future for all Arizonans. Now is not the time to give up. Let’s keep Arizona
moving toward a better future.

- Bryan Jungwirth is president of the Arizona Transit Association

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