If you only listened to supporters of Proposition 104, it would be difficult to know what the $30 billion transit tax initiative is really about. Even the ballot language written by the city tries to hide the fact that Prop 104 nearly doubles the transit sales tax over the next 35 years, a multibillion dollar tax hike to fund light rail expansion that Phoenix residents can ill afford.
But the massive tax hike is only one reason why Prop 104 should be rejected by Phoenix voters. As written, Prop 104 is a blank check for City Hall that allows insiders and politically connected special interests to cash in at taxpayers’ expense.
One of the most glaring problems with Prop 104 is how the initiative discriminates against driving motorists at the expense of light rail. Multiple transit studies have shown that the preferred method of transportation for over 97% of Phoenix residents is the automobile. Yet the plan as drafted intends to spend 90% of the projected revenue on expanded bus and rail service and only 8% on street improvements. This funding imbalance is completely unfair and does not serve the interests of Phoenix taxpayers.
Additionally, the proposed plan lacks the basic accountability and oversight that taxpayers should expect from our elected leaders. In fact, the initiative is so poorly written that there is no requirement that any of the proposed projects in the plan even get built.
Instead, Prop 104 provides the city with unlimited flexibility on the types of transit projects get funded and when. If a future city council or staff decides to change the plan or deny funding for certain street improvements that were promised, voters will not be able to stop them. A likely result will be that entire sections of the city could lose out on transit funding to politically connected insiders at City Hall. How the money is spent will be up to the politicians to decide, not you.
The lack of transparency and accountability tied to this tax increase was by design. They could have included protections on how the money was spent or oversight to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. They chose not to, because the City wants your money but with no corresponding strings attached.
Voters in Phoenix would be wise to take a stand against this giveaway and vote no on Prop 104.
— Scot Mussi is president of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.