Far-right Arizona legislators just got rolled on Prop. 400 vote. More of this, please

Cars drive along Piestewa Freeway, Arizona State Route 51, near the Ministack, as seen from the pedestrian bridge near Oak Street in Phoenix on May 18, 2023.

Cars drive along Piestewa Freeway, Arizona State Route 51, near the Ministack, as seen from the pedestrian bridge near Oak Street in Phoenix on May 18, 2023.

The Arizona Legislature on Monday at long last forwarded Maricopa County’s transportation tax extension to voters and our leaders did it in the most fitting way possible.

By rolling right over the hardest of hard-right crowd that has called the shots all year long.

It was a refreshing bit of bipartisanship in a record-long session that featured precious little of it.

The result is a ballot proposition that will let Maricopa County voters decide whether to continue taxing themselves to fund the Valley’s regional transportation plan for the next 20 years. Recent polls show sizable support for the plan.

“This is great for the taxpayers,” Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “It’s good for the citizens.”

Freedom Caucus crew couldn’t stomach a compromise

Far-right Republicans, meanwhile, were furious.

“Democrats are over-the-moon on this Prop. 400 bill,” Rep. Justin Heap, R-Mesa, tweeted just before the vote. “If we pass this it will be a massive win for Hobbs and the Democrats. We will be giving Democrats a club to bludgeon us with in 2024.”

“Way to end the session with a win for Hobbs and the Democrats,” one of them, Rep. Rachel Jones, R-Tucson, harrumphed right after the vote, while, no doubt, stomping her foot.

You’ll have to excuse Heap, Jones and some of their fellow far righties for seeing this in politically opportunistic terms rather than in terms of what is best for Arizona.

With Republicans clinging to a one-vote majority in each chamber, the Arizona Freedom Caucus that seems to run the Legislature has taken a my-way-or-the-highway approach all year, never seeing any need to compromise.

Thankfully, the majority acted in Arizonans’ best interest

In the view of its members, a veto by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs (and she’s had a BUNCH of them) is simply another talking point in their favor with primary election voters – the only ones who matter in the vast majority of legislative districts – come election time.

Fortunately, many of the Legislature’s more traditional Republicans understood the necessity of compromise, especially on an issue so vital to the future growth and prosperity of the Valley and thus the state.

Not to mention to the future prospect of being stuck in horrendous traffic for hours on end if the tax isn’t extended before it expires in December 2025.

And so comes Senate Bill 1102, on Day 204 of this year’s 100-day legislative session.

Both sides scored wins on their priorities on Prop. 400 spending

The $20 billion tax extension, if approved by voters next year, calls for spending 63% of the proceeds on freeways and roads and 37% on transit over the next 20 years.

Among other things, it significantly boosts the amount spent on pavement, kills any future extension of light rail and dictates that “road diets” are a distinct no-no – all Republican priorities.

It also preserves a hefty percentage of the tax for public transit, a priority of Democrats.

And it allows for maintaining the existing light rail system, which should be a priority for everybody given that we spent billions to build the thing.

Overall, Monday’s passage was a welcome exercise in give-and-take by warring politicians who have spent most of the year at each other’s throats. Credit goes to both Republican legislative leaders and Hobbs for finally getting it done.

But the vote also spoke loudly and clearly about those hard right Republicans who spent much of the weekend and all of Monday pitching a fit.

Far-right obstructionists rendered irrelevant when it counted

“Never forget that the democrat goal is to remove private vehicles from the average person completely,” an overwrought Rep. Jacqueline Parker, R-Mesa, tweeted. “It’s already starting. The latest rendition of prop 400 will help with that car-free goal.”

That’s nonsense. Even Senate President Warren Petersen, no slouch when it comes to conservative credentials, praised the plan as a Republican triumph.

“This will be the most conservative transportation plan in the history of Arizona ever passed, ever implemented, ever adopted,” the Gilbert Republican said, ticking off the many concessions Republicans won.

The freedom folk are just mad that they were rendered irrelevant. In the end, seven Senate Republicans and 14 House Republicans voted no on the bill (along with one Democrat, who objected to the light rail cuts).

They wanted the ballot measure split into the two questions – one on freeways and one on public transportation.

They believed voters would have killed the transit portion of the tax given low ridership, thus resulting in a tax cut.

So because so few people – and certainly their own constituents – ride buses … we don’t need them?

We won’t need them in the future as the Valley’s continues to explode with newcomers? With new employers? With new job opportunities?

Yeah, that’s some forward thinking there.

SB 1102 passed 43-14 in the House and 19-7 in the Senate.

Senate Republicans who voted no: Shawnna Bolick of Phoenix, Jake Hoffman of Queen Creek, Anthony Kern of Glendale, J.D. Mesnard of Chandler, Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff and Justine Wadsack of Tucson.

Democrat Sally Ann Gonzales of Tucson also voted no.

House Republicans who voted no: Neal Carter of San Tan Valley, Joseph Chaplik of Scottsdale, Justin Heap of Mesa, Laurin Hendrix of Gilbert, Rachel Jones of Tucson, Alexander Kolodin of Scottsdale, David Marshall of Snowflake, Cory McGarr of Marana, Steve Montenegro of Goodyear, Barbara Parker of Mesa, Jacqueline Parker of Mesa, Michelle Pena of Yuma, Beverly Pingerelli of Peoria and Austin Smith of Wittman.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Far-right Arizona legislators got flattened on Prop. 400 vote

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