In a rare act of unity across Arizona, elected officials are calling on Gov. Jan Brewer and the Arizona State Legislature to restore money effectively stolen from the state’s Highway User Revenue Fund.
The collapse of the 2007 housing bubble and the subsequent Great Recession of 2008 hit Arizona particularly hard. Our tourism-centered economy suffered tremendously and has yet to fully recover five years later.
In the mad clamor to keep state government agencies funded, Arizona legislators began cutting services and shifting money from what they deemed unessential services.
Among the victims was HURF, which funds roads, highways and bridges through taxes on gasoline, vehicle licenses and vehicle registration fees.
Now the leaders of Verde Valley’s five municipalities — Camp Verde Mayor Charlie German, Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, Jerome Mayor Nikki Check and Sedona Mayor Rob Adams — are calling on Brewer to restore HURF through a joint open letter.
The Verde Valley has been shorted nearly $2 million in needed road repairs since the recession: Cottonwood, $596,170; the Town of Camp Verde, $575,424; Sedona, $530,864; Clarkdale, $216,823; and Jerome, $23,497. Statewide, HURF has lost $750 million since reductions began in 2002.
Arizona legislators are not known to reach across the aisle, but in a rare act of bipartisanship, Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin Sr. [R-District 1] and Arizona Minority Leader Chad Campbell [D-District 25] also issued a joint open letter to Brewer urging her to restore HURF to $119 million for the next two years.
In Tucson and Phoenix, there are hundreds of routes to get from one side of town to the other. In rural Arizona, we can count the routes on one hand. If one needs an emergency repair, whole towns and cities suffer. If roads to recreation sites are closed, tourists will find other activities, but nearby hotels, restaurants and shops lose potential revenue.
Potholes and crumbling streets damage tires and vehicle undercarriages, resulting in repairs, time off work and lost labor, reducing the state’s overall tax base as well as hurting the poor, working families and retired people living on fixed incomes.
Emergency repairs to bridges and State Routes are far more costly and time-consuming than scheduled, regular maintenance. Additionally, regular road work offers good-paying jobs to tens of thousands of contracted construction workers across the state.
Local governments should not have to pay for street repairs, that should be the state’s responsibility. Small governments pour tens of thousands of dollars they can’t afford to waste into asphalt rather than funding youth programs, supporting small businesses or giving grants to nonprofits.
Brewer and our legislators should heed the call from state and local leaders to restore HURF and get Arizona moving again.