Arizona Legislature takes another extended break
The Arizona Legislature is taking another extended break, this time for four weeks, ostensibly to allow lawmakers time to shore up their work on various projects, including measures aimed at allowing Maricopa County voters to decide the future of a transportation tax and a possible revival of legislation ending municipal rent taxes.
After a whirlwind day Monday which saw the state House of Representatives voting on more than 90 bills, many of which seem destined for Gov. Katie Hobbs’ veto stamp, both the House and Senate adjourned until June 12.
There are typically few days off during a legislative session, but this marks the fourth extended break — of at least a week — since the legislative session began in January. Usually, legislators race to end the session after passing the annual budget and scramble to finish up the remaining work, but that’s not happening this year.
Chief among the remaining items for lawmakers to tackle is Proposition 400, a Maricopa County sales tax that was first approved by voters in 1985 and extended in 2004, but is set to expire in 2025. The majority of transportation projects across the county, including Valley Metro light rail and loops 101, 202 and 303, have all been funded largely in part with Prop. 400 tax money.
Republican lawmakers, upset at the mass transit spending in Maricopa County, passed a law in 1999 requiring Maricopa — and only Maricopa — to receive legislative permission to put any extension of the 1985 tax on the ballot. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers backed an effort to do just that last year, but the proposal was vetoed by then-Gov. Doug Ducey, citing rising inflation.
Since then, the county and Valley municipalities have been working to find support for an extension of the tax, but efforts to move forward any meaningful legislation to continue Prop. 400 has been said to be on “life support,” Rep. David Livingston told Axios Phoenix.
“We are holding 2 meetings this week and will have many more prior to (June 12),” Senate President Warren Petersen told the Arizona Mirror when asked if the Senate had any plans to address Prop. 400. “If we can get a consensus by (June 12), then we can act.”
There are currently two measures to extend Prop. 400, but both are different from the current tax in their own ways, and neither are supported by the county. One would allow 39% of funds to be spent on transit, but explicitly bars money from being spent to extend the light rail system — spending that Republicans have chafed at for two decades — while the other allocates only 26% of funds to public transportation and also prohibits light rail expansion.
When they return, lawmakers are also hoping to address other issues, as well.
During the flurry of floor action Monday, the House passed Senate Bill 1131, a bill that would eliminate the rental tax in Arizona cities and towns. Hobbs vetoed an earlier version of the bill in February, but when asked if a possible rental tax elimination agreement could be considered on the Senate floor upon reconvening in mid-June, Petersen said “it’s possible.”
“We are mostly done with everything required for floor action right now,” Petersen said. “We will hold confirmation hearings and have other interim meetings that deal with transportation, the border, inflation etc. We will continue working, just no floor action is necessary.”
Petersen also dismissed rumors that the legislature intends to stay in session until late into the year.
“Not planning on staying until November, but (we) need to see where we are with nominations and other business on June 12,” Petersen said. The Senate’s Committee on Director Nominations can only oversee nominees as long as the legislature is in session.
The legislature will have been in session for 155 days by the time lawmakers return.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.