Infrastructure: past, present and our future (again)

Above: Phoenix Light Rail moving along the westbound line near the Van Buren Street and Central Avenue station. (Photo by Kayla Koch) Real Estate | 3 Jan, 2017 |

As we kick off 2017 with a new President, new Congress, and a new Arizona Legislature, the conversation about infrastructure needs and how to pay for them will start anew.

My column a few months ago spoke of how infrastructure makes our lives better and our economy more efficient. Roads, highways, water pipes and much more make up the modern infrastructure we all use every day. Our state’s expansive infrastructure was constructed over many years, and our leaders are responsible for keeping it working for us today and keeping up with a growing population that uses more infrastructure.

As we move forward, there is no one way to fund infrastructure needs because the challenge of funding is too big for any one method. Valley Partnership is happy to support and work with partners on steps we need to take now to move forward with critical infrastructure and how we can pay for it.

With the new legislative session in Arizona, Valley Partnership is supporting a permanent solution to fund the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF). Last year’s one-year fix was a great step, but almost $2 billion Highway User Revenue Fund monies have been diverted in recent years to fund state programs other than the primary purpose of HURF — construction and maintenance of streets and highways.

There are also rumblings over amending the Government Property Lease Excise Tax, aka GPLET law. GPLET allows Arizona’s cities, towns, counties and county stadium districts to lease property that they own to private parties for nongovernmental uses, and to develop unused or underutilized property to help revitalize communities.

Since this property is owned by the government, it is exempt from paying property taxes. Instead, GPLET is assessed and distributed to taxing jurisdictions.  In 2010, the Legislature amended the GPLET laws to increase the GPLET rates for new leases entered into on or after June 1, 2010, to limit lease terms, and eliminate the ability to reduce payments over time. As development is starting to come back in Arizona, and especially the Valley, this tool is being utilized by cities – also resulting in discussion about potential GPLET overuse.

A December 2015 audit of GPLET by the Arizona Auditor General recommended that parties administering GPLET should develop and implement policies and procedures to help ensure that GPLET revenues are accurately calculated, collected, distributed and reported. Valley Partnership supports this recommendation and will work with key cities to refine policies and procedures to ensure proper and timely payments. This must take place before any attempt is made to amend or do away with GPLET. We hope you will join with us in supporting GPLET and ensuring our cities use this tool in the manner intended by the Legislature in 2010.

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