Wendell Long

Wendell Long

Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO Amber Smith wrote the following in the June 8 edition of Inside Tucson Business: “Everyone is complaining about the roads, and there is certainly a lot of rhetoric out there with reasons why we can’t repair our roads. We need a solution—now.”

There is now a solution in the form of Proposition 463. Voters throughout Pima County vote on Nov. 6 on a $430 million general obligation bond to reconstruct our roadways, and I encourage everyone to vote “Yes.”

I was asked to co-chair the effort to Just Fix Our Roads because I feel strongly that infrastructure improvements and effective and efficient commerce are directly tied. As a small business owner, margins are tight and I simply cannot spend hard-earned dollars on increased maintenance costs for my vehicles due to shoddy roads. I also need happy customers and I am always amazed at how moods can swing based on the condition of the roads.

Amber is right to point out that sometimes we come up with reasons why we can’t repair our roads, but I am pleased to see the momentum has shifted in favor of addressing that basic public need. In 2006, voters approved the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the first time a regional infrastructure solution was passed in Pima County. In 2012, voters in the City of Tucson approved $100 million in general obligation bonds and, since then, 248 miles of pavement have been restored.

Here are some additional key facts in support of Proposition 463:

Pima County will split the $430 million in a fair and equitable way amongst the area jurisdictions. The disbursement of funds will be calculated based on assessed valuation and the roadways in the poorest condition within each jurisdiction will receive priority treatment.

Secondary property tax levels do not need to be increased, and can simply be maintained to cover the costs of this roadway reconstruction program. In fact, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to decrease primary property tax rates by $.39 per $100 of assessed valuation, the largest single year decrease since the 1970s.

All funds will be separately accounted for and both the Bond and Transportation Advisory Committees will monitor the expenditures and report those expenditures annually.  The RTA will be tasked with developing a uniform transparent reporting system. The public deserves this information and the work of the committees and the public reports are a responsible means to ensure promises are kept.

Without the political will to enact by unanimous vote a county sales tax and the state legislature’s continued decision to not index the gas tax to inflation, which has not seen an increase since 1991, general obligation bonds are the only available method to reconstruct our roads NOW. The half-cent sales tax approved in 2006 through the RTA is for the construction of new roads so we need to approve measures like Proposition 463 to fund reconstruction of existing roads.

Throughout my career, I have called other parts of the country home and the most visible sign demonstrating how much a community is willing to invest in itself are the state of the roads. Whether we are attracting the next big company or talented employees companies in the region need to succeed, infrastructure is a key factor when those decisions are made.

We cannot nickel and dime our way to success anymore. Tucson is a big city that demands big decisions and Proposition 463 is another step in the right direction. Let’s vote to invest in ourselves and let’s Just Fix Our Roads! Vote “Yes” on Proposition 463.  

Wendell Long is a member of the Tucson Metro Chamber Board of Directors.  He also co-chairs the effort to Just Fix Our Roads.