By ggrado | Arizona Capitol Times
Pima and Maricopa counties are going to get to keep tapping tourists to pay for their sports facilities.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review a ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court which found nothing improper by financing these projects with taxes on car rentals, a levy largely borne by people visiting the state. The justices gave no reason for their decision.
Monday’s ruling, made on the first day the nation’s high court was back from summer recess, also leaves intact the decision by the Arizona justices that, strictly speaking, a tax on the renting of cars is not a tax on the use of state roads.
That distinction is critical.
The Arizona Constitution spells out that any cash raised from fees or taxes related to the registration, operation or use of vehicles on public highways and streets can be used only to build and maintain roads. If the court had found the car-rental tax was a levy on the use of public roads, then it would be illegal to use the cash to finance stadiums and other similar facilities.
Monday’s decision ensures that the state Sports and Tourism Authority continues to benefit from the car-rental tax. The most recent audit shows the tax of 3.5 percent on vehicles rented in Maricopa County contributes close to $15.6 million of the authority’s $51.8 million annual budget.”