Phoenix might ask voters to raise sales tax for transportation

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The Citizens Commission on the Future of Phoenix Transportation is recommending a new, permanent tax to pay for future transportation costs.

The move comes after it held 17 open houses and gathered hundreds of online and in-person comments from residents.

According to the commission's report, "overwhelmingly, the public preferred a permanent tax." The group's proposal calls for a 0.75 percent sales tax increase, which comes out to almost 1 cent for every dollar spent.

[Click here to read the commission's full report (PDF file)]

"Transportation is an economic development issue," Committee Co-Chair Marty Schultz said during last week's Phoenix City Council Transportation Subcommittee meeting.

"I can't imagine a more ideal circumstance than for people to have a choice in transportation, it's very important," Schultz said.

Supporters say it'll also reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The plan calls for 125 new miles of light rail, street car or bus rapid transit and $2.4 billion going toward street repairs, new roads, improved sidewalks and bike lanes.

The Committee says the tax will generate $30.5 billion over a 30-year period, but councilmember Sal DiCiccio, a light rail opponent, says the city should be focused on public safety, parks and libraries.

"The city of Phoenix has more money now than it's ever had in its history and it's still facing a budget deficit," he told CBS 5 News. "And, it tells me the city of Phoenix's fiscal house is not in order and it has to put its house in order first before it goes out and asks for more money from taxpayers."

On Tuesday, the city's transportation subcommittee is scheduled to vote on sending the issue to the full council, which would then decide whether to put the tax on the ballot.