economy has been on fire. In
just the last year the Grand Canyon state has created 75,000 jobs and Maricopa
county leads the
nation in population growth.
The state is more productive than
ever too. Arizona
now ranks third fastest growing GDP in the country; outpacing
heavy weights such as California, Florida and Texas. Arizonans are enjoying a better standard of
living as well with an over $61,000 median household income.
This tremendous boom is a direct
result of lawmaker’s decisions to keep tax burdens low and to create an
environment where businesses can thrive.
And yet the tax-and-spend lobby wants to squander this
prosperity by reversing the very policies that got us here.
A group led by the Helios
Foundation has unveiled
a proposed measure that would impose a $1 Billion dollar property
tax hike AND a $500 million dollar sales tax increase. It would be by far the
largest property tax increase in Arizona history and be extremely punitive
toward job creators in the state.
And just like its “Invest
in Ed” predecessor, this tax hike is entirely unnecessary. Due to pro-growth polices and historic
federal tax reform, Arizona has enjoyed record tax revenues and
budget surpluses the last two fiscal years.
Most of this surplus has been put
toward education. In the last 18 months the legislature and Governor Ducey have
pumped nearly $1.5 Billion in new spending into K-12 education,
most of which has gone toward the ‘20by2020’
teacher pay plan, the continued restoration of district additional assistance,
new school construction and results-based funding. And even after all that spending there was
enough left over to structurally balance the budget and leave $1 Billion in the
Not surprisingly, none of this
additional K-12 funding has satisfied the education spending lobby, which is
why we are back at square one talking about another tax hike. It doesn’t seem to matter that Arizona
has been making tremendous gains in student performance over the
last decade or that how you
spend the money is far more important than how much is being
Arizona is on the right path and
changing course now would be a mistake. That’s why taxpayers should be wary of proponents
peddling major tax hikes claiming our schools are in shambles. Instead, we should continue to grow and
diversify our economy, invest in school choices that increase competition and
improve educational outcomes, and demand higher standards. Afterall, you get far more juice out of the
economy by growing it – not by squeezing it.
It has been interesting to watch
supporters of light rail try to explain away its exploding cost and how
projects such as the South Phoenix extension have turned into reckless
boondoggles for taxpayers.
As has been reported by
multiple news outlets, the cost for South Phoenix rail extension has tripled in
three years to $1.35 Billion dollars. At $245 million per mile it is now one of
the most expensive rail projects in the country. And with the Federal
their funding share to 39%, Phoenix taxpayers are now on the hook for
an additional $400 million in cost overruns.
Now a little-known comedian named
Hasan Minhaj has decided to enter the fray, putting out a short
video attempting to demonstrate why light rail isn’t such a bad
deal after all. In doing so he inadvertently provided more evidence on the
absurd cost of the South Phoenix rail project and why other transit options
(such as expanded bus, dial-a-ride, ridesharing, etc.) would make much more
His first critique is that
opponents to light rail have ignored their economic development benefits for
the community. This is simply not true.
Maybe during his extensive
research on the issue Mr. Minhaj missed the fact that our organization already
looked into Valley
Metro’s $11 Billion-dollar economic development claim and
discovered that it was a sham. Virtually every project on their list was either
government funded/subsidized or had nothing to do with light rail. Unless, that
is, Mr. Minhaj wants to argue that QuikTrip gas stations, car washes, the
Phoenix Police forensic lab, the Maricopa County Sheriff Office and a Tesla
Auto Dealership were built because of light rail.
He then complains that our
organization and others have messed up by overstating the actual costs of light
rail. Using an uncited, non-existent transit “industry standard,” Mr. Minhaj
declares that the true cost for the South Phoenix project is only $14 per
rider. He arrives at this figure by calculating the number of projected
boardings over the next 30 years (105 million) and divides that into the cost
of the project.
One small problem: he
confuses riders with ridership. These are not all unique
individuals, unless Mr. Minhaj believes that the entire population of Arizona,
California, Texas, Virginia and Florida all plan to visit South Phoenix and
ride the light rail. Perhaps for educational reasons people will flock to the
area to see how many small businesses light rail has bankrupted, but we doubt
Now Mr. Minhaj is correct that
the projected daily boardings for the South Phoenix extension is 9,600. It is a
figure that some light
rail opponents have used to determine that it would be cheaper
to buy every rider a Tesla than expand light rail ($1.35Billion ÷ 9,600 riders =$140,000). In
reality they were being way too forgiving—since actual daily unique riders will
be half that amount (around 5,000), the true cost is closer to $280,000 per
rider. Forget Teslas, it would be cheaper to buy every rider a condo than
build the South Phoenix extension.
This doesn’t mean that the $14-dollar
figure Mr. Minhaj arrives at isn’t significant. Thanks to him, taxpayers now
know that they will be paying at least $14 to move someone up to 5 miles in one
direction on the light rail ($2.80 per mile).
Given that the average 5-mile uber/lyft ride is around $10, it
would be cheaper to issue 100 million rideshare vouchers over the next 30 years
than it is to build the South Phoenix project.
We give Hasan Minhaj credit for
trying to inject some humor into the light rail debate. It is too bad that he
assumes that opposition to costly light rail is only because of some deep
seeded irrational hostility to transit or involves an evil Koch brother hiding
behind every bush.
Light rail is simply too costly
and will end up consuming the city’s transportation budget if expansion is not
stopped. That doesn’t just mean canceled road repairs, but reduced bus and
dial-a-ride service as well. There are better options available, and we intend
to continue to advocate for transportation solutions that benefit all
residents, not just the 1% of the population that use light rail.