Arizona’s rural fire department districts will not receive any additional funding through a new statewide sales tax anytime soon, according to the results of the November 8 election.
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Proposal 310, or the Sales Tax for Fire District Funding Measure, would have created a 0.1% sales tax over 20 years to fund the state’s fire districts. Voters ultimately failed to pass the measure by a 52% majority, with 1,144,494 voters approving the measure and 1,230,042 voters rejecting it.
According to the Arizona Public Health Association (AzPHA)urban, suburban and tribal voters in the state were generally more willing to pass the measure than rural voters.
Will Humble, executive director of the AzPHA, says these funds are “desperately needed”. In a blog postHumble highlighted the large disparities in EMS care in urban/suburban and rural areas across the state.
“We have 2 unequal emergency medical services in Arizona,” Humble said of the measure. “People living in cities and towns enjoy high-performing emergency medical systems with up-to-date equipment, staff and training.
Residents of rural Arizona (especially unincorporated areas) do not enjoy the same level of emergency medical care as urban residents. It’s not just because of the long distances emergency responders travel when answering 911 calls. It’s because rural areas simply don’t have the resources to provide the same level of service that we take for granted in urban and suburban Arizona.
Arizona voters approved Proposal 132, which requires 60% of the vote to pass future ballots approving taxes. Humble explained that, as a result of this measure being passed, if an alternative to Proposal 310 is proposed in the future, it would require a 60% majority to pass.
“[Proposition] 132 was successful largely because of strong support in rural Arizona,” Humble said in a recent blog post. “As a result, EMS care in Arizona’s fire districts is likely to remain substandard forever, as it is likely unfeasible to pass a future proposal that includes any kind of tax.
Voters in rural Arizona may have missed their one chance to get funding from urban and suburban voters to subsidize their fire and EMS districts. It would also take a 60 to 40 vote to raise property taxes in rural fire districts, meaning improving ambulance care in AZ will now be next to impossible.
Opponents of Proposition 310, including the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, said it would force “responsible” fire districts to bail out “irresponsible” fire districts.
“If passed, all Arizona taxpayers would be forced to subsidize 1.5 million other Arizona taxpayers despite already paying taxes for fire and emergency services in their own communities,” the Arizona Free Enterprise Club said in a statement. . “This is not only redistributive, but also unfair. And that’s not the only problem. This policy is essentially a bailout for fire districts that spent reckless and wasteful taxpayers’ money. For Arizona taxpayers to indiscriminately subsidize districts that are not good stewards of tax dollars is a perverse incentive.”