The Regional Transportation Authority’s 20-year regional transportation plan is funded by a voter-approved half-cent transaction privilege (excise) tax. The tax is collected in the state-established RTA special taxing district within Pima County. The RTA plan and tax measures were approved by voters in Pima County on May 16, 2006, and are effective through June 30, 2026.
Collection of the RTA tax began on July 1, 2006, and is assessed in six major categories:
- Retail Sales*
- Restaurant & Bar
- Rental of Real Property
- Rental of Personal Property
*Grocery and pharmaceutical items are tax-exempt.
The tax, which applies to visitors as well as residents, businesses and utilities in Pima County, is collected by the State of Arizona which, in turn, transfers the collected funds to the RTA’s regional transportation fund account.
By state law and RTA policy, the RTA must spend the money as outlined in the voter-approved plan, which was developed with a 35-member citizens’ advisory committee, public/private technical management committee and extensive public input.
The 2006-approved, $2.1 billion plan identifies funding for the following transportation elements:
Roadway Improvement Element
- RTA funding: $1.69 billion
- Other funding: $334 million
- RTA funding: $180 million
Environmental and Economic Vitality Element
- RTA funding: $115 million
- RTA funding: $534 million
- Other funding: $75 million
Non-RTA revenues committed to RTA projects include development impact fees, federal, regional and local funds.
Due to lower-than-anticipated tax revenues following the Great Recession, the Regional Council of Pima Association of Governments, which manages the RTA, and RTA Board committed additional federal and state dollars that are dedicated to the region to meet the RTA revenue commitments for the remaining five-year period of the 20-year RTA plan. (The University of Arizona Eller College of Management currently projects the RTA tax will generate revenues of $1.6 billion through June 2026.)
Prior to the 2006 election, the RTA Board pledged to the public a commitment to fund the minimum allocation for projects named in the RTA ballot.
RTA member jurisdictions are responsible for costs beyond the ballot amounts and long-term maintenance of RTA improvements. In addition, local jurisdictions currently manage the maintenance of local roads and neighborhood streets. RTA funding is voter-committed to regional level projects, such as major arterial corridors that link travelers to regional destinations and freeways.
10-year RTA Performance Audit
An independent, 10-year performance audit of the RTA plan was completed in early 2017 and found that funds have been spent as outlined in the ballot. Under a robust framework established by the RTA Board, the RTA and partners through intergovernmental agreements are delivering the projects on budget and on schedule. The audit also indicated that if current practices continue, the RTA is expected to deliver projects identified in the plan within the timeframe outlined.
The performance audit of the RTA plan was compiled by Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting Inc. for the Arizona Office of the Auditor General.
Additionally, the Citizens Accountability for Regional Transportation (CART) Committee provides ongoing oversight of the RTA’s financial and delivery performance.
RTA Funding Impact
Annually, the RTA is single biggest funder of transportation projects in the region. State and federal funding sources dedicated for regional transportation needs have been relatively flat since the early 1990s. The Arizona gas tax has remained at 18 cents since 1991, and the federal gas tax has remained at 18.4 cents since 1993. The RTA tax offers a flexible funding solution that is citizen driven to meet priority transportation needs in the region.
Funding for a future, new RTA plan will be determined by planning efforts currently underway by a citizens’ advisory committee with support from a technical management committee and with public input.
A new budget for projects identified in a future plan will need to be established based on anticipated new tax revenues for the yet-to-be-identified plan period. Once a draft plan is ready, the RTA will conduct extensive public outreach to seek broad input on the draft plan before final approval by the RTA Board. Both the plan and tax will require voter approval in a future election.
Learn more about RTAnext.