Presidential candidates did not discourage Peoria and Mesa voters from filling out their down ballots. Both cities had proposed 0.4 percent sales tax increases which were handedly defeated last Tuesday.
Peoria’s “Forever Tax”
Proponents of Peoria’s Proposition 400, dubbed the “Quality of Life Tax,” tried to make the case that the tax increase was needed to fund much needed public safety priorities and park ranger positions.
The truth is Prop 400 was designed to fund a lavish wish list of non- essential projects such as river trails, upgrades to neighborhood parks, a new recreation center, a new city pool, beautification of Old-Town Peoria, and a brand-new library in North Peoria (even though 12 already exist in the city). It also included funding for an aquatic center that would compete with several private swimming locations already in Peoria.
The public safety claims were such a sham that even the Peoria Police Officers Association urged a NO vote on the initiative.
What made Prop 400 even more egregious was how city elites actively used tax payer money for electioneering on behalf of the proposal. City officials plastered garbage trucks with Prop 400 signs and printed extensive materials to “educate” voters; for good reason, this is illegal.
But in the central planning paradigm, the ends justify the means. Current City Mayor Cathy Carlot argued it was the legislature’s fault that Peoria was in this unfortunate position of having to extract more money from residents. She cited the state’s changes to city impacts fees. Indeed, reforms were made to stop cities from being able to charge exorbitant impact fees on new developers to fund massive city wide projects (like libraries and aquatic centers.) Developers are still required to pay impact fees, however, those fees are meant to pay for direct and legitimate city services and infrastructure to the degree that development puts additional demand on those service. They’re NOT meant to subsidize whatever grand projects the city craves and sees the opportunity to dump onto new growth.
Proposition 400 was defeated by more than 13 points. It is clear Peoria voters sent a loud message to their elected representatives in the City – that message was a resounding ‘NO.’
Public Safety Ploy Fails in Mesa
Meanwhile in Mesa, the city was also asking voters to pass an additional 0.4 percent increase, again claiming it was necessary for public safety improvements. While this tax hike did allocate more funding to public safety than its Peoria counterpart, it was coupled with other special interest giveaways that voters couldn’t stomach.
Specifically, $15 million of the $38 million anticipated annually would have been dedicated to fund debt service on an Arizona State University satellite campus and an expansion of Benedictine University. Spending $127 million on a questionable downtown campus was simply not palatable to voters–the measure was defeated by a solid 7 points.
At the end of the day voters are getting wise to the tactics of city governments. It is no longer enough to pay lip service to public safety or use it as a Trojan horse to fund other lavish non-essential ideas. In a world where citizens are getting crushed by high insurance premiums, ever-increasing property taxes, and a diminishing purchasing power, they are demanding more accountability for their tax dollars.
Every jurisdiction in Arizona should take notice of Peoria’s and Mesa’s failures to convince voters, and think twice before asking their residents to increase taxes.