By a supermajority of votes cast, Tucson residents voted to increase its city sales tax rate by a half-cent for the next five years, with the money slated to repair city roads and upgrade assets for the police and fire departments. The Proposition 101 tax increase was the only item on the ballot for the special election that ended Tuesday, May 16th.
The city’s sales tax has been 2 percent, but with more than 60 percent of votes in the affirmative, residents OK’d the additional half-cent tax for the next five years, raising the city sales tax to 2.5 percent until June 30, 2022. This tax increase goes into effect July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
The tax increase is expected to raise $250 million over the next five years, with $150 million to be split evenly between the Tucson police and fire departments for equipment and structural upgrades. The remaining $100 million will be used for maintaining city roads, including surface streets and key neighborhood streets that are prioritized.
In 2012, city voters approved Proposition 409 which provided $100 million in General Obligation Bonds to restore city streets. More than 179 miles of city streets have been improved through the street bonds program which ends in 2018.
The Pima County Republican Party, along with some other groups, opposed the Proposition 101 tax increase claiming that this is a budget problem and not a money problem. State law does require municipalities to fund public safety and roads as part of their annual budgeting process. Opponents of the tax increase claimed that the increase would condone the Mayor & Council’s current priorities which have left public safety and road maintenance short-handed.
Among those supporting the increase was the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce, saying that safe roads and neighborhoods are good for business. The Tucson police and fire departments were also pleased with the outcome; passage of the tax gives them the green light to replace their aging fleets, among other things.
“The Tucson Police Officers Association is extremely pleased with the overwhelming passage of Proposition 101. We want to thank the Tucson community for supporting us and giving us the tools we need to do our jobs. The passage of Prop 101 will greatly assist us in our mission to keep Tucson safe,” said Jason Winsky, Government Affairs Director of the Tucson Police Officers Association.
The tax increase puts Tucson’s overall sales-tax at 8.6 percent, equal to Marana and Oro Valley but below Sahuarita, which sits at 8.1 percent. Unincorporated Pima County is at 6.1 percent.