“We pay taxes in rural Arizona just like everyone else.”
An analysis from The Arizona Republic shows that Gov. Doug Ducey gave smaller cities, towns, and counties $395 million less in COVID-19 aid than the U.S. Treasury Department recommended.
While Arizona’s three biggest cities – Phoenix, Mesa, and Tucson – and two biggest counties – Maricopa and Pima – received their relief directly from the federal government, Ducey received millions to distribute as he pleased.
But while the federal government recommended trying to “ensure equitable treatment among local governments of all sizes,” Ducey gave less to municipalities under 500,000 residents. The larger cities received about $174 per person, while the others received about $115 per person.
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For example, Chandler, a city of more than 250,000 residents, received $29,983,456. Based on the federal recommendation, the city should have received $45,570,681, a $15,587,225 difference.
Other cities that were shortchanged by more than $10 million were Scottsdale, Gilbert, Glendale, Tempe, and Peoria. Pinal County also received the short end of the stick, getting $14,124,623 less than recommended.
The leftover money was put into the state’s $1 billion general fund, where it has no specific use.
Ducey’s spokesman Patrick Ptak told The Republic the governor’s aid distribution was “thoughtful” and carried out after meeting with mayors for their input.
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“We are still determining the best use for other CARES Act dollars. We only get to spend these dollars once, and we want to ensure we are doing it wisely and responsibly,” Ptak said.
The governor’s office has touted the fact that just under half of Arizona’s CARES share was directed to cities, towns, and counties, the highest percentage in the country. But the percentage is so high thanks to the federal government’s total payment of nearly $1 billion to the state’s largest cities and counties.
The withholding of a portion of the funds has led to calls for a future COVID-19 aid package to allow cities and counties to receive money directly from the federal government.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and the Arizona League of Cities and Towns have supported this effort.
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has also said states shouldn’t have the ability to hold money back from municipalities.
While some mayors have said they believed they received their fair share, others argue they’re being unfairly starved for resources.
“I don’t understand his rationale for taking the money from small towns,” Winslow Mayor Tom McCauley told The Republic. “We should all get the same amount per capita.”
Winslow was shortchanged more than $550,000.
Mayor Coral Evans of Flagstaff, which received nearly $4.5 million less than recommended, also said the allocation was unfair.
“To give us 66 cents on the dollar is very short-sighted, especially when you look at our lack of revenues,” Evans told The Republic. “We pay taxes in rural Arizona just like everyone else.”