County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wants the Pima County Board of Supervisors to flex its political muscle at the Legislature to support raising taxes.
The five members of the board might need to use all of their collective political capital if they back Huckelberry's request and go to the statehouse asking for an additional, statewide 10-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline.
A tax increase is one of handful of options open to Huckelberry, as the costs to fix county-maintained roads continue to climb at the same time that one of the single biggest sources of funding - the state's Highway User Revenue Fund - continues to decline.
Revenues for the sales of gasoline hit a 13-year low in the last fiscal cycle, according to a county staff report.
Huckelberry is clear the county cannot cut its way out of the problem. Savings from cutting waste and ending misuse of taxpayer dollars would only generate a fraction of what the county needs to address a backlog of crumbling streets.
"The Tooth Fairy will not fill our potholes. We can only help ourselves," the county administrator wrote in a memo to the board on Monday morning. "If we want to solve our own transportation problems, the solution is increased transportation-related taxes."
He notes the last increase in Arizona gasoline taxes was two decades ago.
"There has not been an increase in the gas tax in over 22 years, and the state of deterioration and inadequacy in our transportation shows it," Huckelberry wrote.
The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave the state a "D" rating on its roads, with 52 percent rated in either poor or mediocre condition.
Arizona drivers now pay 18 cents in taxes when filling up, less than half of what California drivers pay in state and federal taxes. The Golden State's rate of 38.16 cents per gallon is the highest in the county, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Pima County is not alone in trying to find new revenue streams to fix streets.
The Maricopa Association of Governments, for example, cited similar problems in a recent update to its regional transportation plan.
Other options listed by Huckelberry for the board to consider might be largely symbolic - including a request that the Legislature partially or fully return HURF revenues moved to other uses since 2002.
"The Tooth Fairy will not fill our potholes."
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, on the need for increased funding for street repairs
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346.