Top legislators want to restore road repair funding

State, communities falling dangerously behind on road work, Tobin, Campbell say

KINGMAN - The top Republican and Democrat in the Arizona House of Representatives on Friday requested Gov. Jan Brewer to restore more than $200 million in Highway User Revenue Funds to the state's cities and towns in fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

Speaker of the Arizona House Andy Tobin, R-Prescott (District 1) and Phoenix Democrat and Minority Leader Chad Campbell, asked Brewer to restore reductions in funding totaling $238 million.

Known as HURF, the fund is used to maintain and improve the state's roads, highways and bridges. But Brewer diverted millions in HURF money to other state agencies and used it to balance the state's budget during the Great Recession.

"Restoring HURF will help communities across our state repair streets and roads that were neglected at the height of the financial crisis," said Campbell in a statement.

The neglect to the state's road infrastructure has become apparent. A once-dependable revenue source dwindled significantly and local governments are struggling.

Mayor Janet Watson and the City Council have held several meetings regarding the issue as the economic downturn has impacted the city in a number of ways - few as damaging as the sharp decline in HURF funding.

The city struggles to perform scheduled maintenance as budgets have been depleted in recent years. Projects remain on drawing boards, weighed down by the lack of funding.

Earlier this year, members of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns voted to make the restoration of reduced HURF funds a top legislative priority when lawmakers go into session. Kingman is a member.

Tobin in his email didn't suggest the recession was over, but he did indicate that might not even be relevant given the state of Arizona's road network.

"Faced with more than a $3 billion budget shortfall in 2010, tough choices had to be made," said Tobin. "But after two years of delivering a balanced budget that also deflected cuts from key areas like education, now is the time to restore reductions in HURF funding for roads and bridges."

Investing in the state's transportation infrastructure will help bring the recovery to all parts of the state," said Tobin.

The men were more blunt in their letter to Brewer.

"The recession and subsequent slow growth that followed it pulled money from the state HURF fund and, in addition, forced cutbacks by local community leaders on roads and streets that they maintain, putting our transportation infrastructure years behind its normal maintenance schedule," they wrote.

Tobin and Campbell asked Brewer to prioritize infrastructure needs "near the top of her list" as she develops the fiscal year 2015 budget.

"Given the approximate $750 million reduction in spending that HURF has experienced since 2002, we suggest that your budget fully restore HURF funding for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 at $119 million per year," wrote the House leaders.

The men also reminded Brewer that HURF spending is a key component of the state economy and its gross domestic product.

Enhanced motorist safety was also mentioned when they advised Brewer that "properly maintained roads increase public safety and make traveling through the state that much more enjoyable"

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