The taxpayers of the City of Phoenix – proud owners of a failing hotel, $1.5 billion in deficits over the next two years, and $3 billion in unfunded pension debt – are likely to see their sales tax nearly doubled to pay for $30 billion in transportation projects that are already losing money.

You read that right.

Phoenix’s current transportation tax – Transit 2000 – will expire in five years, and the Phoenix City Council is preparing to nearly double it – from .4% to .75% – to raise $30 billion for a hodgepodge of projects that the city neither needs nor can afford in the first place.  What’s more, the Council is being asked to do away with any pretense of making the new taxes temporary or subject to review.  They will simply make them permanent.

Keep in mind that Arizona still has one of the highest sales tax burdens in the nation, even after letting the 2010 sales tax hike expire.

However, the bulk of the new taxes would be spent on the further expansion and maintenance of light rail.  In fact Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton has plans to triple the size of the system.  As we approach the ten-year anniversary of breaking ground for light rail, it’s worth noting that it has never, ever operated in the black.  Instead it’s operating losses amount to tens of millions each year, which the City of Phoenix has to absorb.   For example, Phoenix spent roughly $22 million to operate light rail last year, but only recovered $8 million.

So – drowning in debt, facing over $1 billion in new deficits, and faced with the reality that taxpayers spent $1.4 billion to build a slow moving trolley that loses $14 million a year – the Phoenix City Council is poised to double your sales taxes to triple it.  All while police and fire continue to be dangerously underfunded.

Don’t let them get away with it.  We encourage all Phoenix residents to call their councilmember, write letters to the editor, and show up to the City Council for the debate over this irresponsible tax hike – and let your voice be heard.