Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson touched on some of his concerns with the actions of the state legislature during his State of the City 2016 address in mid-March.
“We find ourselves in a situation frequently with the state legislature doing things that affect our ability to do the services that we provide to the public,” Jackson said.
Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF)
The money comes from several sources, but mostly from the state tax on gasoline. The revenue is allocated to cities and counties based on population. The fund is supposed to be for road improvements and maintenance.
“Over the last five or six years the state has taken money out of that HURF funding to pay for the Department of Public Safety,” Jackson said. “And it’s affected us in Casa Grande about a million dollars a year.”
He added, “That means your road network is going to not be able to be kept at the standards that we’ve become used to.”
In a sense, Casa Grande is lucky because a majority of its streets are in good shape.
“We recently completed a study which is out for public hearing right now through the Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization,” Jackson said. “They did a pavement rating system for Casa Grande, Coolidge and Eloy. The categories were poor, very poor, good, very good and excellent.”
He continued, “In Casa Grande, 82 percent of the streets were rated as excellent, very good or good. And that, again, is a tribute to our ability to stretch every dollar we have to the maximum ability possible.”
Good roads help with economic development, Jackson said.
“You drive into a town (and) if the roads look good you think, ‘Well, the town looks pretty well run.’”
He added, “I’m not saying anything at all about our neighbors, but I think that’s one of the reasons why we are so lucky with a lot of the economic development successes.”
What about those lower-rated streets?
“I’d be the first one to say I could show you roads right now that don’t fall into those categories,” Jackson said, “but if you think about the roads you drive on all the time, they are all in pretty good shape.”
Guns in public buildings
Jackson said the legislature is considering a law allowing guns to be brought into public buildings.
“I know my wife, Judy, worries about this all the time,” he continued, “and if you’ve been in City Hall we have like zero security in there. What the law says is that you can bring guns into public places, as in City Hall, unless the government entity wants to put in a security system. So, you think about the number of buildings, even City Hall by itself. We have three main entrances. We’d have to have three security gates like you go through at the airport and three security guards.”
The guns proposal would also apply to other city buildings, such as Parks and Recreation and the two libraries.
“We probably own 35 or 40 buildings,” Jackson said, “and if we’re going to put in a security system and a security guard, (it would) probably cost the city of Casa Grande a couple million dollars. The alternative is to let people come in with guns. I’m sorry, I just don’t think that’s good public policy, but as it stands today, that legislation looks like it’s probably going to pass.”
Eliminating tax on rentals
The legislature also has a bill that would eliminate sales taxes on rentals.
“That is not a big hit for Casa Grande, but it is a hit for some of the other cities,” Jackson said.
“We get about $200,000 a year. If you’re in a city that has a higher percentage of renters, like Phoenix, that’s a huge financial hit. And there’s not a way to make that up, because you can’t raise property taxes, can’t raise sales taxes, so you would tend to take that as a budget cut.”