I want to give you a progress report and update on where we are with our RTA Road Repair Plan, also known as, “Just Fix the Roads.” Over the last few weeks I have presented our RTA Road Repair Plan to the Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce; the Greater Vail Chamber of Commerce; the Green Valley Council; Green Valley Recreation; the Rotary Club of Green Valley; the Tucson Association of Realtors; the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association; the Santa Rita Foothills Association; the Bel Air Ranch Estates Community Association; the Marana Chamber of Commerce; a committee within the Southern Arizona Leadership Council; the Pima County Transportation Advisory Committee and the Pima County Sales Tax Advisory Committee. I plan to continue our efforts of promoting our RTA Road Repair Plan to more groups and organizations in the coming weeks, as I feel and have always felt that fixing our roads is the number one issue and priority facing all of us in Pima County today.
As you know, for our plan to succeed, it must be passed unanimously 5-0 by the entire board of supervisors. My goal, at the very least, is to prompt a discussion among my fellow supervisors about what we can do together to find ways and create plans to fix our roads. I believe our RTA Road Repair Plan makes the most sense, given the realities involved with pursuing other avenues for road repair at the county, state, and federal levels. However, I do realize that my fellow members of the Board have significant differences and objections to our RTA Road Repair Plan.
One thought of concern expresses the belief that a countywide sales tax would create an undue financial hardship on those in the county with lower incomes; that a sales tax is “regressive.” The belief continues that lower-income residents can’t afford to own vehicles, so why should they have to pay an extra tax to fix roads that they can’t even afford to use. My answer is that no one wants or likes additional taxes. That is why our plan would not tax medication, food or housing.
Secondly, certainly there are those who are financially challenged who do own vehicles and do use or roads to get to their jobs or schools. Legitimate studies have been conducted that show the cost of maintaining and repairing vehicles that travel on poor to failed conditional roads can cost vehicle owners upwards of $700 per year. A countywide sales tax would cost consumers on average only $81 annually.
And there are those who are against any kind of tax. As a former car dealer, selling some of the biggest of ticket items for over 40 years, I do not enter into the discussion of enacting a countywide sales tax lightly. I know the impact a rise of a few percentage points has on the success or failure of a transaction. That is why a sales tax is the fairest – everyone participates equally in generating revenues for fixing our roads. Tourist and non-residents pay too – not just property owners and residents of Pima County. Everyone, regardless of residency or property ownership, who use our roads will pay the same sales tax.
Let me be clear: I will never support a countywide sales tax of any kind unless the tax revenue goes directly to fixing our roads and the Regional Transportation Authority administers strictly all road repair operations. I understand that everyone has the right to be against a proposal, but then it is incumbent upon those who are against a proposal to present one of their own.
Wouldn’t it be great if the entire board of supervisors collaborated to create a plan to “just fix our roads”? That hope and opportunity still exists and there is still some time for collaboration? But our roads can’t wait much longer – and neither can we.