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'Stop holding Arizona’s economy hostage': Hobbs vetoes bill to extend Prop. 400

As Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ list of vetoes continues to grow, one veto has countywide support. It would have extended Proposition 400, which is a regional transportation tax in Maricopa County, set to expire in 2025.

Senate Bill 1246, approved in party-line votes, would have prohibited the sales tax dollars from being used in Maricopa County to expand a light-rail line to the state Capitol, which was criticized by Republican lawmakers as a waste.

It would have put more money into freeway projects and fewer dollars into public transit than Hobbs had sought. It also would have raised the speed limit on the freeway system in Maricopa County to 65 mph.

→  Here's a list of all the Arizona bills Gov. Katie Hobbs has vetoed so far

If the proposal had been signed into law, voters would have been asked two questions.

First, they would have been asked if the vast majority of revenues from the tax should be spent on freeways, public transit and arterial streets. Next, voters would have been asked whether the remaining money should go toward maintaining light rail.

The tax, which was first approved in 1985, helps to pay for major Phoenix-area freeway projects, bus service and the Phoenix area’s light rail system. It was extended in 2004.

It’s set to expire on Jan. 1, 2026, unless the tax is put on the ballot and voters extend it.

In a written statement on Tuesday, Hobbs directed lawmakers back to the drawing board. She said the bill did not support Arizona’s economic growth and directed legislators to "stop holding Arizona’s economy hostage."

“I’m dedicated to continuing Arizona’s economic growth, building and attracting businesses, and creating good-paying jobs for Arizona workers. This partisan bill does none of those things," she said.

In separate statements, Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego encouraged bipartisanship. Mesa Mayor John Giles wrote that he hopes to see the Legislature "reconsider the cities’ Prop. 400 compromise bill" instead.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that Maricopa County voters would have to approve a sales tax extension in order to secure transportation funding.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.