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‘Capitol Times’ downplays financial and political impact of HURF fund sweeps

As chairman of the Committee on Transportation for the Arizona House of Representatives, I would like to point out areas of concern regarding the Arizona Capitol Times Nov. 25 article “Contractors say fund sweeps cost 42,000 highway jobs, want HURF reimbursed”. The truth is that in its reporting the publication seriously underrepresented the length and scope of the HURF raids and the negative impact these actions have had on eroding the trust of Arizona voters in their state government.

The story states that “since fiscal year 2010, a total of $373 million in highway construction money has been lost due to those shifts.” Actually, the fund sweeps began during the administration of Gov. Jane Hull in fiscal year 2001, and have continued uninterrupted ever since. In good economic times and bad, over the past 12 fiscal years nearly $1.5 billion in money earmarked for road building has been shifted to other purposes.

Furthermore, the Capitol Times article allows an Arizona legislator to maintain that while there is support for a bill to prohibit shifting highway construction funds to other causes; such a proposal would be irrelevant because there are no plans to make fund sweeps next year. Considering that the Legislature has made fund sweeps every year for the past 12 fiscal years, it is logical to conclude it is only a matter of time until state lawmakers again use our highway funds as their slush fund.

As a fiscal conservative, I believe legislation to halt these raids on Arizona highway spending is needed to provide a guarantee to state citizens that their money is spent as intended. Whether it is at the federal, state or local level, taxpayers are sick and tired of politicians displacing tax dollars from the purposes for which they were meant to other non-related programs.

Clearly, the intended use of the Highway User Revenue Fund was for the safety of the traveling public, which includes funding for the highway patrol, which I support. But the use of the HURF is being morphed into broader definition to include other appropriations not intended by the Constitution.

In my opinion, we elected officials must be accountable and transparent in our actions if we ever expect to regain the trust of the voting public.

— Republican Vic Williams represents Legislative District 26, which includes north Tucson, Catalina and Oro Valley.

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