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Gas tax increase gains momentum as possible path to better roads

Updated: Jan. 16, 2017 at 6:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A proposal to hike Arizona's gas tax by 10 cents a gallon may be picking up steam.

State lawmakers set the state gas tax at 18 cents a gallon in 1991.

It has not been raised since, even though one dollar then is worth only 47 cents today, meaning those highway dollars don't go as far as they used to.

A report issued by the Arizona Surface Transportation Funding Task Force late last year, mentioned a gas tax increase as a possible solution to help pave the way for better roads.

The task force was established by the state legislature to determine how much is needed to fix, repair and build Arizona's roads in the short term.

The conclusion ranged in the $20 billion range.

While the gas tax would raise only a small portion of that, it's one idea of many being discussed.

This year, the Republican Chair of the House Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, Rep. Noel Campbell of Prescott, is asking for a dime-a-gallon increase, according to the Capitol Times.

That's the same dime a gallon requested by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry three years ago, which was never introduced, let alone passed.

According to State Senator Steve Farley, a District 9 Democrat from Tucson, "State lawmakers have for too many years been stealing our gas money and using if for other things."

He told us that in 2014 and he's still saying it today.

State lawmakers began sweeping those funds during the 2008 Great Recession to help balance the budget. This year, in his 2018 Executive Budget proposal, Gov. Doug Ducey is again calling for a $90 million sweep.

Farley said the governor should not be taking the gas tax money meant for road repair and using it to balance the budget after calling for a $113 million increase in education spending.

"We need both good roads and good schools," Farley said.

Ducey, however, has been adamant about not raising taxes of any kind, reiterating in his 2017 State of the State address what he told us just after he was sworn in nearly three years ago.

"I think when we talk details, we're talking about not raising taxes," he said.

Campbell, according to the Capitol Times, says he realizes it will be a hard sell to state lawmakers but he's frustrated that he's not getting cooperation from the state's top executive.

A tax increase measure must be passed by two thirds of the state lawmakers which will be a hard hill to climb.

But a simple majority would be enough to send it to the voters for the 2018 ballot.

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