Town Rebels Against Gas Tax Sweeps

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Legislative diversion of HURF funding has cost Payson $3 million in the past four years.

Now Payson has joined a toothless rebellion against the state Legislature’s habit of sweeping gas tax monies that for years have gone to cities and towns.

The Payson Town Council last week unanimously approved a resolution to join with other cities and towns to protest the Legislature’s diversion of gas tax money for the past four years. The state shift has cost Payson $3 million in that time and has forced the town to not only cancel planned road improvements, but to cancel even most routine maintenance for the past several years.

The old formula provided extra gas tax money for rural communities, which must provide roads that a lot of out-of-town people use, even though those drivers generally fill their gas tanks elsewhere.

“The rationale was to say that people use roads and highways, not next door to the gas station,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans. “We’re one of those communities. People fill up in the Valley, come up here, go back down to the Valley and fill up again. But (HURF) became one of the funds that the Legislature in its infinite wisdom figured they could sweep and kick the can down the road.

“It’s finally time to rise up and say enough is enough,” concluded Evans.

Town Manager Debra Galbraith said that some 20 or 30 cities are expected to adopt the same resolution, which will make it an agenda item for an upcoming meeting of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.

However, she also noted that the diversion of gas tax money looks increasingly permanent, since the Legislature had earmarked the gas tax money that used to go to cities to provide operating funds for the Arizona Department of Public Services, which patrols state highways.

That diversion recently prompted Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin to call on the Legislature to consider restricting DPS to things like running the state crime lab and letting county sheriff’s departments patrol the highways.

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