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.