City of Tucson: an evil plan for revenue

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The City of Tucson Council meeting Tuesday night was a raucus event with protestors out in force to object to the 2% "renters sales tax" proposed by newly elevated City Manager Mike Letcher. Proposal for 2% tax on renters is blasted Some of the protesters wearing red were with Trent Humphries (a former Republican legislative candidate) and his Tucson Tea Party, which is opposed to all taxes and fee increases. Go away, already. Other individuals who possess a social consience wore red for the coalition of housing associations arguing that the tax would affect the poorest Tucsonans at a time they can least afford to pay. 700 protest proposed rent tax, higher fees at city budget hearing

I can agree with this reasonable argument. But the City of Tucson is required by law to balance its city budget, so where can it look for revenue to replace the dramatic decline in sales tax revenue resulting from this recession/depression?

Let's think outside the box — or more accurately, the city limits. The City of Tucson almost uniquely has a substantial portion of its population living in unincorporated areas of Pima County outside of the city limits. These unincorporated areas have resisted annexation into the city limits over many years in order to not pay the additional 2% city sales tax and various and other fees the City of Tucson collects for public services. (These county residents do pay the city sales tax on purchases they make inside the city limits.)

City of Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup first came to office proposing a mountain-to-mountain annexation plan for these unincorporated areas — not for the purpose of generating city tax revenue per se, but for the politically partisan motivation of bringing these largely Republican voter registration areas into the City of Tucson in order to break the Democratic Party stranglehold over the City of Tucson Council. How's your evil plan working out for you, Bob?

Rather than annexation (which ain't gonna happen) I'll propose an evil plan of my own, just for fun. The Arizona Legislature currently has before it several bills regarding the authorization of toll roads. Senator Ron Gould has introduced SB 1359, a very simple bill which provides:

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

Section 1.  Title 9, chapter 4, article 8, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 9-499.08, to read:

START_STATUTE9-499.08.  Ability to build, finance and operate toll roads

Notwithstanding section 28‑6805, subsection C, a city or town may construct, operate and finance the construction of toll roads within the corporate limits of the city or town. END_STATUTE

With a minor amendment to this bill, the City of Tucson could be authorized to install toll booths on the bridges and access roads over the Rillito River, which demarcates the northern boundary of the city limits; Pantano Wash and Tanque Verde Creek, which demarcates the eastern boundaries of the city limits (in many areas); and the Rillito River, which would serve as a convenient western boundary. Tucson residents would receive E-Z Pass decals for their car windshield so they can be waived through without paying any fee. Residents of other incorporated areas who pay municipal taxes (Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita) likewise would receive a pass. But county residents living in unincorporated areas would pay a reasonable toll to enter into the City of Tucson.

As I said, this is an evil plan, just for fun. I have no idea how much revenue this would actually generate. I pose this thought only to point out that many of the complaints raised against the City of Tucson Council come from county residents living in unincorporated areas of Pima County. They are not city residents, and they are ineligible to vote in city elections. But oh, how they love to complain. They can always be made to pay for this privilege to complain like those of us who are city residents. It is tempting.

0 responses to “City of Tucson: an evil plan for revenue

  1. Francine Shacter

    The City Council has settled on the most regressive form of taxation – how sad! They prefer to tax those with limited incomes, those who spend all or nearly all of what they earn just to get from day to day. The percentage of income paid in taxes by those people is larger than the percentage of income paid by those who pay taxes, based on what they earn! The council, by agreeing to postpone developer’s impact fees, has said that people are less important than developers. It is more equitable to keep the impact fees and institute a corporate “good neighbor” levy.

  2. azpoljunkie

    Is a corporate tax allowed? If so, why not pass a 1% tax on corporations making more than a certain $ amount (maybe $50,000?) in gross profit in Tucson? Frame it as a corporate citizen “good neighbor” levy. I don’t know how much the city is short or how much an idea like this would raise, but it seems that the businesses that make a lot of money in Tucson should share in the costs of maintaining the infrastructure.

  3. Ah yes, the generic mantra of “cut spending” – substance free, specifics free. Its not that easy when you are the one responsible for making actual cuts that affect people’s lives.

    What would you like to cut? Police, fire, emergency medical response, health care (like flu vaccinations), public parks, road maintenance, trash removal, etc.? The cost of providing these basic services has not gone down any, but the revenue generated by governments overly dependent upon sales tax revenue has precipitously declined during this recession/depression. A revenue source other than the sales tax may bridge the gap to maintain basic services until the economy begins to recover.

  4. Why cant the city do like the rest of us. Make ends meet. No new taxes. Cut spending.