Rattlesnake on chopping block

State’s budget problems may push proposed traffic interchange to back burner

KINGMAN - Increased taxes may be on the horizon for Kingman residents, while the Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange may not.

At the Tri-City Council meeting on Friday, Director of Legislative Affairs Scott Smith presented Gov. Jan Brewer's five-point plan to balance the state's $3.3 billion budget deficit, while Arizona Department of Transportation Kingman District Engineer Michael Kondelis discussed regional transportation.

The governor's plan calls for reforms in the budget process focusing on the long-term needs and resources, altering the Voter Protection Act to cut or redirect funding from certain voter-approved programs during times of crisis, further spending cuts to reduce the general fund by $1 billion, providing tax reforms to attract business and more jobs, and a temporary tax increase to bridge the $1 billion gap in the budget shortfall.

"We're not going to get out of this crisis on cuts alone, but it is a key component," Smith said.

State representatives Doris Goodale and Nancy McClain both expressed their support of the first four points but not the last.

"Any tax that we implement would affect businesses more than individuals, I believe," McClain said.

By affecting businesses, the tax would have a trickle down effect and hinder economic growth, she added.

Goodale and McClain weren't the only government officials to speak out against a tax raise.

"It really bothers me that a tax would be passed under the guise that it is temporary," Kingman Mayor John Salem said.

Salem added he understands the legislation is under pressure to figure out the budget, though the cities have been planning for cuts for years.

"If the city loses just a small portion of the state shared revenue, it'd just be devastating," Salem said.

Another potential blow to Kingman could be the removal of the Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange from ADOT's five-year plan. The start dates from some projects could see large changes due to budget cuts, Kondelis said.

"There is a good chance a lot of those projects would be moved out," he added.

ADOT has already cut 15 percent from its current budget and is focusing on emergency maintenance, Kondelis said. This move may suffice during the next two or three years, though it won't work five years down the line.

One project already underway now has an estimated completion date: the Hoover Dam Overpass. The project is 70 percent complete and should be open in December 2010, Kondelis said. The 15 miles of road for U.S. 93 leading up to the overpass on the Arizona side would be expanded to two lanes each way by the opening of the overpass.

In the meantime, the council members approved the second phase of a tri-city transit study to establish a bus route connecting all three cities. The second phase is a study to determine the actual costs of the transit system.

Transportation between cities could help the staffing of Nucor Steel Corporation plant in Kingman. Christina Lollar with Nucor wasn't able to give an estimate of when it would open.

"All signs are pointing to soon," she said.

Lollar did ask the council to consider adopting a resolution to make buying American-made products a top priority. While cities would still select the lowest bidder, the resolution would require making the bidding process open to public view. While the council listened to the presentation, no decision was made.

The next Tri-City Council meeting will be at 10 a.m. on July 22 in Bullhead City.