County adds its 2 cents in statewide plea for road funds

Another pitch for HURF $$

Buster Johnson

Buster Johnson

KINGMAN - The multi-million dollar loss of Highway User Revenue Funds annually allocated by the state is deeply impacting Mohave County, and its leaders are getting ready to make some serious noise about the situation.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution calling for the Arizona Legislature to fully fund HURF for fiscal year 2015. The board meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Mohave County Administration Building auditorium.

"This situation is a real hardship because the county can't plan when it comes to our roads," said Supervisor Buster Johnson, District 3, who sponsored the resolution. "The state is not doing its job when it takes the counties' money to make up for what it failed to do. It spent the state's rainy day fund and sold our buildings. So I thought it

would be a good idea to reinforce the fact that we are still trying to run our county despite a loss of funds."

The resolution notes that Mohave County is comprised of 2,080 miles of road, with 28,700 traffic control signs and 830 linear feet of pavement marking. It adds that Mohave County would require $14 million annually to maintain that road system to good industry practice and $22 million for complete road maintenance to provide safe transportation for road users.

In fiscal year 2013, the resolution continues, the county's HURF distribution totaled 20 percent less than its peak distribution in 2006 and nearly $4 million less than what is needed for adequate maintenance of county roads. It also was less than half of what is needed for complete road maintenance and repairs.

From fiscal year 2009 to 2014, the resolution notes, Mohave County has lost about $5.9 million in HURF revenue, resulting in a missed opportunity to chip seal 350 miles of road or 44 percent of the paved road system. It also caused the county to have inadequate resources available to deliver complete response and recovery in emergency events.

HURF has recently become an issue across the state. In December, the top Republican and Democrat in the Arizona House of Representatives asked Gov. Jan Brewer to restore more than $200 million in HURF to the state's cities and towns in fiscal years 2015 and 2016. Speaker of the Arizona House Andy Tobin, R-Prescott, and Phoenix Democrat and Minority Leader Chad Campbell, asked Brewer to restore reductions in funding totaling $238 million.

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

And in November, the Mohave County board joined hands with the County Supervisors Association of Arizona to request changes in how money from the 15 counties in Arizona is spent by the state. The board signed the association's resolution asking, among other things, that the Arizona Legislature restore local HURF to the counties instead of using them to fund state agencies.

According to that resolution, HURF is the primary resource dedicated to state, county and municipal highway and road construction. It relies heavily on an 18-cent per gallon fuel tax that has not been raised since 1990 and is not indexed for inflation. That leads to a loss of purchasing power as the price of asphalt, rock product and heavy equipment has increased dramatically over the years.

Since 2009, the resolution continued, the situation has been made worse by the Legislature diverting more than $634 million in HURF revenue to fund state agencies. The 2014 state budget shifts $120 million from road activities to the state's general fund, impacting county transportation programs by nearly $21 million.

The reduced allocations from HURF to the counties has resulted in the suspension of new construction, has substantially decreased road maintenance activities and has increased the designation of "primitive" roads, the resolution noted. The cuts also have hurt state and municipal transportation departments, it added, significantly compromising roads throughout the state and making them inadequate for future needs.

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