Talk about raising gas taxes - Tucson News Now

Talk about raising gas taxes

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

For the past few years, we've continued to hear how state officials are not spending enough money to maintain the roads.

That came to a head last year when the residents of Pima County and the city of Tucson started making noise and protesting the sad state of the streets.

Millions of dollars was then found to do some patchwork.

But nearly everyone agreed, it's only the beginning, that hundreds of millions of dollars is needed to bring the roads up to acceptable.

Most everyone can agree on that but where they diverge is where to find the money.

One idea on the table is raising the state gas tax which hasn't been raised since 1992.

It's 19 cents a gallon.

It's still the main source of revenue for the state's highway system but it doesn't go as far.

When it comes to road maintenance, it only buys half what it did then.

And it doesn't generate as much cash as it once did.

"The reason being is that we see with fuel economy and alternative fuel vehicles, people use less,: says John Halikowski, Arizona's Transportation Director. "The gas tax may not be the workhorse it's been in the past."

But Pima County's Administrator Chuck Huckleberry says, "It's the best revenue source."

He proposes a 10 cent hike in the state gas tax to 29 cents, bringing Arizona more in line with nearby states.

"Our tax falls behind or is less that a number of other states," says Transportation Board Member Steve Christy. "So maybe we should look at it as bringing it up to equity level."

But Christy sees the bigger problem and a quicker fix is keeping the state lawmakers from sweeping gas tax funds for other purposes.

The state will sweep $17 million from Pima County alone this year.

The gas tax funds, called HURF funds, Highway User Revenue Funds, are meant to repair and maintain roads.

"I think what happens in Phoenix, is the legislators look at it as a number with a dollar sign and never look at it in black and white and what kind of impact it has," he says.

For Halikowski it goes deeper than that.

"Because intimately, our first mission is to make sure folks using our roads are using a safe transport ion system," he says.

The Arizona Transportation Board brought is meeting to Tucson today to see how this part of the state is faring in the transportation issue.

"The people spoke with emotion," says Christy.

But many of them spoke of the need to fix the roads we have not necessarily to build new ones at this time.

And board members agree, maintenance on the state's $18 billion roadway system is essential right now.

The state is looking at three options for state transportation needs but no matter which one is chosen, the state will fall below federal standards.

"It doesn't sound sexy, it doesn't sound bells and whistles, maintenance and preservation, but if we don't preserve and maintain what we've got, we're going to lose it all," says Christy.

Others are not quite as dark but believe raising money to fix the road is essential as well.

"They're talking about three different options of what to cut, what to delay and what not to do and that's crippling our transportation system" says Huckelberry.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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