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Preserving Our Future
Pinal County’s half-cent road excise tax was originally passed in 1986 and renewed in 2005. Sometimes called the “pothole tax,” this local funding is used to preserve and build our roads throughout our region. This tax is the only funding for our Transportation Improvement and Maintenance Program (TIMP.) TIMP is where Pinal County residents can submit roadway improvement recommendations which go before the Transportation Advisory Committee, which develops five-year transportation plans.
As it currently stands, this dedicated funding is set to expire at the end of 2026. Pinal County’s Public Works Department and Transportation Planning Division have launched a public awareness effort called “Preserving Our Future” to highlight the history of transportation in Pinal County, the accomplishments of the current road tax, and a look at our future roadway maintenance, safety, and economic development needs as discussions begin surrounding the expiration of the current tax.
- The Beginning of TIMP in 1986
For nearly forty years, Pinal County has had a half-cent road excise tax to help improve streets and roads in the County and its incorporated cities and towns. Sometimes described as “the pothole tax,” this program is also referred to as the County’s Transportation Improvement and Maintenance Program (or TIMP for short). We are pleased to offer a brief history of the program and how our local leaders had a vision that has allowed our community to keep up with growth and invest in critical infrastructure and maintenance.
Today, Pinal County’s population is rapidly growing toward nearly a half million residents, but back in 1985, the population was just under 100,000, according to a Special Census. At the time, Pinal County maintained a little more than 2,000 miles of roadways, with almost 65% of roadways unpaved.
Around this time, Maricopa County began utilizing an excise tax to increase funding for transportation with their passage of Proposition 300. Seeing the enactment of that program, Pinal County decision-makers felt it was time to follow suit – especially since the tax would be paid by both permanent and part-time residents. Understanding that a good roadway network could strengthen the local economy and attract business, regional leaders placed the issue on the ballot for a special election on December 10, 1985, which resulted in the proposition being narrowly defeated by 196 votes.
Fortunately, history does not end there. Recognizing that the growing needs of the community were not going away, our local leaders went back to the drawing board. They focused their efforts on roadway right-of-way acquisition, construction and reconstruction of transportation projects, roadway maintenance, bridges, and payment of principal and interest on transportation bonds.
On September 8, 1986, the Board of Supervisors resolved to hold another election on November 4, 1986, for the purpose of approving countywide transportation excise tax. This proposition was known as PC400, “Pinal County Transportation Excise Tax,” with a sunrise of January 1987 and a sunset of December 2006. This time, Proposition 400 passed with 51.1% of the vote.
The funds were distributed to pay for local projects in unincorporated Pinal County as well as through a population-based formula between the eight incorporated cities and towns. In 1998, the Town of Queen Creek annexed property in Pinal County and began receiving a portion of the tax. In 2003, the City of Maricopa followed suit upon incorporation.
Due to the recession, the tax fell short of projections with an ultimate 20-year total of $115 million. However, the program was still incredibly successful, with Pinal County accomplishing just under 400 miles of roadway surfacing and increasing the number of road miles to nearly 2,100, with almost half of those miles paved. As the sunset approached, our local leaders started to look ahead to what was next.
- TIMP Goals in the Early 2000s as it Faced Sunset
A lot has changed since 1986, when the tax first passed. The population of Pinal County had nearly doubled from 98,044 to 192,395 in 2002 – the road tax had made a significant impact on the community and had helped with the economic and population growth of the region.
In the summer of 2003, increasing sales tax revenues started to fall in line with projections, and the population continued to grow exponentially. Facing the sunset of the essential tax in less than three years, local leaders started a public conversation to consider reauthorization.
Later that fall, in September of 2003, leaders from Pinal County and all of the incorporated cities and towns came together to have their first meetings to discuss the issue. Their vision was to “Gain public support for reauthorization of the Pinal County Transportation Excise Tax to continue development of an improved, safe, and efficient regional transportation system acceptable to all countywide jurisdictions and in accordance with regional planning efforts.”
In order to achieve this vision, they established three goals: 1) Develop an integrated, efficient, safe, and balanced transportation system for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. 2) Develop a transportation system that is acceptable to all partners and in accordance with adopted regional planning concepts. 3) Attain the level of funding needed to complete the identified transportation projects to serve the region over a 20-year period.
Our local leaders recognized that they could achieve these goals with a continuation of the existing excise tax replacing the identical one that was set to expire on December 31, 2006. The issue was placed on the ballot as Proposition 400 for the November 8, 2005, election.
The proposal would continue to solely fund essential transportation projects within Pinal County with the added ability to focus on multi-modal transportation systems, including single and multi-use trails, sidewalks, curbs, and pedestrian pathways; Regional transportation studies; as well as cooperative transportation projects and studies between Federal/State governments and Pinal County/incorporated cities and towns.
Pinal County voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 400 with 73.7% of the vote. It remains in place today, with a current expiration date of December 31, 2026. Since 2005, it has been used to fund local projects to pave and fix roads, improve safety, and support economic development, as our community has nearly doubled again in the last 20 years.
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- How is road maintenance and repair funded in Pinal County?
Road maintenance and repair in Pinal County is primarily funded through three revenue sources: the half-cent transportation excise tax, vehicle license tax, “use fees” generated from gasoline purchases and other items collected by the State of Arizona and placed in the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF).
- Do our property taxes pay for roads?
No, property taxes pay for things like school districts and general government operations but not roads. In Pinal County, roads are only funded through Federal and state grants, state-shared revenues of the Highway-Use Revenue Fund (also known as HURF), vehicle license taxes, and half-cent transportation excise tax (pothole tax).
- What would happen if the tax expired in 2026?
In the last five years, the half-cent transportation excise tax has generated between $10 to $15 million annually for road repairs, mitigation for air quality, small projects, and pavement preservation. It is used to fund local projects in unincorporated Pinal County as well as through a population-based formula between the ten incorporated cities and towns. If the tax were to expire, this would lead to transportation cuts for Pinal County and all cities and towns, which would impact transportation investments – especially pavement preservation.
- What is pavement preservation?
Pavement preservation is a cost-effective way to maintain our roads. The process includes various types of treatments such as crack sealing, fog sealing, chip sealing, slurry sealing, and microsurfacing to prolong the condition of roads. The overall goal is to have a long-term strategy that enhances pavement performance by having cost-effective practices and treatments to extend pavement life, improve safety and satisfy the need of our motorists.
- What is the importance of pavement preservation?
Federal Highway Administration guidance describes preservation as work that is planned and performed to improve or sustain the condition of the transportation facility in a state of good repair. Preservation efforts extend the life of pavement, keep road conditions safe, and are significantly less costly than rehabilitation or reconstruction. Preservation ensures that roads last longer with preventative maintenance and can help to avoid more expensive rebuilds.
- Is the reauthorization of the road excise tax an increase?
No. The road excise tax is not a tax increase. It is the local funding that has been in place since 1986 and renewed in 2005. It has helped Pinal County keep up with growth and offer well-maintained roads as the population has grown from under 100,000 in 1985 to nearly half a million residents today.
- Is the half-cent road excise tax the same as Proposition 469 that was on the ballot in 2022?
No. The half-cent road excise tax is the existing tax that has been in place since 1986. It was most recently passed as Proposition 400 in 2005. The “pothole” tax, as it is sometimes called, is used mostly for maintenance and preservation. Proposition 469, which was on the ballot in November of 2022, was an additional tax that was dedicated to new construction under the direction of the Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority.
For any inquiries, contact Ray Telles, Public Information Officer at 520-866-6529 or email [email protected].