Pothole politics: Antenori vs Huckelberry on Pima’s poorly-maintained roads

Pothole politics: Antenori vs Huckelberry on Pima’s poorly-maintained roads

CREATED Mar 23, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV): The state of Arizona knows it; Pima County admits it; and you end up paying for it: The bumpy, pothole-ridden roads in the county. But who’s at fault? the state or the county?

A battle is brewing over the debate – and just like potholes – it’s growing fast. Pima County blames the state for stripping away some of its funding, but a state senator claims the county mismanaged its money.

Cracks, potholes and other wear and tear on the county’s roads are some of the problems that Republican Senator Frank Antenori said cannot be blamed on the state legislature, even though it swept away $8 million of the county’s funding from gasoline and car taxes known as the Higher User Revenue Fund (HURF) for the 2010-11 fiscal year. That leaves Pima County with $50 million.

“They did receive a sizeable amount of HURF revenue. HURF revenue is supposed to augment maintenance of local funds. It’s not supposed to replace it. It’s the responsibility of cities and counties to use general money funds to maintain infrastructure,” Antenori said. 

However, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry argued that would be tough to do, considering the drop in property tax revenue due to the economic downturn and the price of petroleum (used to maintain roads) has increased drastically.

“Quite frankly, we’ve been transferring money to the state to the tune of over $50 million in the last four years to balance the state budget,” Huckelberry said, adding that the county will receive less revenue in the 2011-12 Fiscal year than it did a decade ago. “We cut our budget by 15% to make ends meet, but we haven’t taken anybody else’s money, such as the state has done.”

9 On Your Side brought the concern to House Transportation Chairman Vic Williams, who said Pima County is responsible for its “abysmal road conditions.” Nevertheless, the Republican state senator also said he is not a fan of the state stripping counties and cities of money, especially when it has a surplus, which it does this year.

“Those are dedicated dollars. When we steal, raid or take those funds, it erodes voter confidence in their elected officials. It goes on at federal, state, county and local levels, so there are no good players in this,” Williams said.

Antenori is also pushing for a bill to audit Pima County’s expenses.

“I think transparency is good policy. Sunshine is always a good approach and taxpayers will see how that money is being spent and how efficiently and wisely it’s being spent,” Williams said.

Huckelberry said Pima has been very transparent in how it spends money and welcomes the audit “as long as the state spends its own money on the audit.”

"I don't have a problem with it but that money could be used to fill about 12,000 potholes," Huckelberry said.

Willams said that the state legislature – both Democrats and Republicans – have swept $1.5 billion from local funds, and they will do the same this year, even with the budget surplus.