District 26 Rep. Terri Proud is getting plenty of response after introducing House Bill 2656, which would grant representatives from communities in Pima County veto power for bond projects.
In the bill, Proud is calling out Pima County’s spending practices.
“The Arizona Legislature is considering HB 2656, which will protect citizens of Pima County from the bait-and-switch bond tactics, which have been perpetrated for years by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and the three-vote majority on the Board of Supervisors,” Proud said.
Pima County alone has almost $1.5 billion in bond debt, Proud said. The amount is more than two-and-half times the debt incurred by any other county in Arizona.
“Citizens of Pima County are losing jobs while struggling to pay off government debt,” Proud said. “Meanwhile, Huckelberry is interfering with job growth but presiding over a bloated bureaucracy.”
HB 2656 is set to address some of Proud’s concerns by giving veto power to Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita. That power would allow these three entities to prevent Pima County from borrowing for roads and other projects.
While Proud feels it is necessary for the state to get involved, Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath expressed concern over how the bill was introduced.
In a Jan. 25 letter to Proud, Hiremath said, “I am greatly disappointed that the Town of Oro Valley was neither consulted nor informed prior to your introduction of House Bill 2656, related to county bonding. This bill would have a significant impact on the Town of Oro Valley and its ability to work in a collaborative manner with neighboring jurisdictions. Regardless of our position on this proposed legislation, either the elected officials of the Town or the Town Manager should have been informed prior to its introduction.”
Proud said she did her research on the issue well before the new Legislative session, and felt it was an important time to take action.
“In my opinion this bill is allowing elected officials in surrounding towns to have a say in how their bond money is being spent,” she said. “I didn’t think anyone would have that much of a problem with it.”
However, plenty of people are speaking out against the bill, especially those from Pima County.
Huckelberry has criticized the bill for giving too much power to the minority.
According to Huckelberry, unincorporated parts of Pima County makes up more than 42 percent of the county’s total population. Marana, Sahuarita and Oro Valley represent much smaller percentages.
During a press conference last week, county officials spoke out against Proud’s proposal.
Jon Miles, of the Pima County Housing Commission, said, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Others told the state to back off.
Proud said Huckelberry, who she has described as a “dictator,” is only using scare tactics to take pressure off himself. The county has threatened that if HB 2656 passes, the bond committee could go away altogether.
“It’s just fear tactics to say this program would go away. It wouldn’t,” Proud said. “This is about giving more local control to the smaller entities.”
Hiremath warned that in the future he hopes Proud gives more consideration to the potential consequences of her decisions.
“Please bear in mind that your constituents, including the Mayor and Council of the Town of Oro Valley, are the very people left to contend with those consequences as we endeavor to serve our community,” he said.
HB 2656 has also received support from District 30 Senator Frank Antenori.