Here in Arizona, the state leverages a gasoline tax and collects fees when we register our cars. These monies are deposited into a fund known as the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF). By state statute, 49.5 percent of those funds are to be distributed to towns, cities and counties for road maintenance. However, the state has been continuously and steadily draining the fund and cutting monies distributed to local governments. We have gone from $722,000 in 2008 to only $389,000 this year, almost half to deal with increasing traffic and population.
Here in Flagstaff, we have had to enact an additional local sales tax to make up for the shortfall. Sales taxes, largely seen as the most regressive tax, are the only ones the state legislature permits local governments to enact. Some of the HURF monies diverted from the fund this year are to be rerouted into higher education. I fully support funding for education; however, it cannot come at the sake of city’s and town’s abilities to provide essential services. The services provided by the city are part of what makes going to Northern Arizona University, or working at NAU, desirable. Students and faculty alike use our roads and parks. They need their roads plowed as much as anyone else.
Education deserves, and desperately needs, an adequate, sustainable, dedicated funding source. HURF funds are not the answer. The governor and the legislature should get serious about addressing the education funding crisis and stop with the patchwork makeshift “solutions.” Furthermore, it is bad public policy, and bad for Arizona to pit cities and towns against schools and universities. We should be working together, as partners, not competing. Additionally, it is unfair to towns and cities to continue to create a situation where we do not know how much of the tax revenue our residents pay will be coming back to fund essential local services. It makes it harder to plan and take on long-term projects.
I have contacted the governor’s office and asked for HURF funds to be used for their legally defined purpose, and will continue to advocate for the responsible, and accountable use of your tax dollars. FBN
Coral Evans is the mayor of Flagstaff.