An Arizona Senate panel has approved a bill that would pull
money from the state's "rainy day fund" and use it for road projects.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 7-3 to approve a
bill that was spurred by its chairman, Sen. Bob Burns, R-Peoria. The bill would
take $450 million from the fund and use it speed up road projects throughout
The bill doesn't include a provision to replace the money.
Burns said the lagging pace of road work is reason enough to
tap into the fund, which was set up to help the state in tough economic times.
"Today it is raining people and cars in Arizona and this is
a wise use of taxpayers' dollars," Burns said in a written statement.
He also said coupling this year's plan with the more than
$400 million allotted a year ago for accelerated road projects would help the
state catch up.
Opponents question raiding the $650 million fund. They say
it is intended for economic emergencies, not traffic tie ups.
Gov. Janet Napolitano shares those concerns.
Other options being discussed by lawmakers to aid
transportation projects include higher taxes, tapping into the state's general
fund, borrowing more money or allowing private groups to build and expand
existing roads in return for charging tolls.
Napolitano would rather refinance transportation bonds. She
is considering a change to state law that limits highway bonds to 20 years, the
Arizona Daily Star reported. Repealing the limit would allow the Arizona
Department of Transportation to float 30-year bonds, which would allow the
state to borrow more money.
Burns' bill - SB1049 - is headed to the chamber floor for