The Arizona Supreme Court released its opinion Wednesday on why it upheld another court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit attempting to halt a ballot measure asking voters to stop the Phoenix light rail system’s expansion.
The Arizona chapter of Associated General Contractors of America filed a lawsuit in January against the state and the political committee Building a Better Phoenix challenging the initiative, which seeks to put a question on the ballot regarding the future of the city’s rail system.
Proposition 105, also called the End Light Rail Expansion Initiative, will be on the ballot next month. The initiative would amend the city charter to bar future expansion of the Phoenix rail system and direct the funds to other transportation projects. The initiative would still allow for maintenance costs for the rail system to be funded.
The contractor group argued in the lawsuit that Arizona law bars signature collectors from being paid, something the political committee did. It also argued that the 100-word initiative description was misleading.
The Supreme Court on June 12 issued an order affirming the superior court’s decision dismissing the lawsuit, but released its opinion on the order Wednesday.
The court said state law does bar paid signature collectors, but that “applies on its face only to ‘statewide’ initiative and referendum petitions, and the Initiative is a local measure.”
The court also said the contractor group’s argument against the ballot initiative’s language also fails “because the Initiative does not, in fact, eliminate funding for upkeep of the existing light rail system. ... Thus, the light rail funds at issue in the Initiative are only those dedicated to light rail extensions, not upkeep, as authorized by Proposition.”
Proponents of the measure say it will save taxpayers millions of dollars and more important infrastructure needs will be funded.
Opponents of the initiative say that cutting off funding for future light rail expansions hampers the city’s progress and makes transportation more difficult for some residents.
Voters will also decide on Proposition 106, the Responsible Budget Act, which would cap the city’s budget growth if city pensions aren’t 90 percent funded and would direct any money above the budget cap to funding pensions.
The city has over $4 billion in pension debt.