In an opinion published February 25, 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court held that Maricopa County’s surcharge on car rental agencies to fund a stadium and other sports- and tourism-related projects did not violate either the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution or the anti-diversion provision of the Arizona Constitution, art. 9, § 14. Saban Rent-a-Car LLC v. Ariz. Dep’t of Revenue.
In 2000, the Arizona Legislature created the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority (the Authority) to build and/or operate a variety of sports-related facilities, including Major League Baseball spring training facilities, and youth and amateur sports and recreation centers. Taxes and surcharges, approved by voters, are the sole funding for the Authority’s construction projects, including the challenged surcharge in Maricopa County. This surcharge is based on the income from car rental companies leasing vehicles to customers for less than one year, and is the greater of $2.50 per rental or 3.25% of the company’s gross proceeds or income. A.R.S. § 5-839. The state treasurer deposits $2.50 per rental transaction into the Maricopa County Stadium District, as it has since 1991, and the remaining amount of the difference between $2.50 per transaction and 3.25% of the company’s gross income or proceeds is distributed to the Authority. Rental car companies often pass this surcharge on to their customers.