House Ways & Means OKs plan to let 5 border cities spend more money

Capitol Media Services
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Howard Fischer

PHOENIX - A House panel gave its approval Tuesday to letting five border cities spend more money.

HCR 2026 would alter a provision of the state constitution that limits each city's spending based on a formula. The net effect would be a higher expenditure limit for small border-area communities.

One component of the existing spending limit is the community's population. Lori Tapia, a Douglas City Council member, said that does not consider the number of people the city really serves.

In Douglas, the official population is 15,000. But she said the real population actually is double that based on the number of people crossing the border, both legally and otherwise.

This measure would set the city's population for purposes of computing its expense cap at the number of regular residents plus half the number of people who crossed the border legally in the prior year. Tapia said that would reset Douglas' cap at about $18.25 million a year, up from $12.5 million.

Only cities with a regular population of less than 35,000 and within eight miles of the border could take advantage of the change. That includes Douglas, Bisbee, Nogales, San Luis and Somerton.

The proposal drew criticism from Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association. He said cities already have a method to get around the expenditure cap: have voters approve a higher limit.

The measure, approved by House Ways and Means, now goes to the full House. It must be approved by a two-thirds majority there and in the Senate.

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