PHOENIX — Maricopa is Arizona's most populous county – and by a lot.
But two proposals from House Republicans could see Maricopa County carved into four separate pieces.
If passed, the proposals would shrink Maricopa County's borders to cover the bulk of Phoenix and surround it with three new counties.
Hohokam County to the southeast would center around Gilbert; Mogollon County would cover Scottsdale and parts of north Phoenix; and O'odham County would take up the West Valley and less-populated southwest parts of the existing county.
SB 1137 was proposed by Republican state Senator Jake Hoffman. While that bill faces scrutiny in the Senate and a potential veto from Governor Katie Hobbs, HCR 2018 - proposed by Rep. Alexander Kolodin - would sidestep the governor's desk and take the issue straight to voters in 2024.
The dramatic changes to county lines would have serious impacts on both Valley residents and the state as a whole.
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Higher taxes, bigger operating costs
Most immediately, residents in three of the four new counties would see their property taxes shoot up as state government swells to match the new counties. Arizona would have to fund three new boards of supervisors, three new sheriff's offices, three new county court systems, and the list goes on.
An analysis by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) estimates that the cost would start at $155.2 million annually for the new county officials and staff.
While it's impossible to predict the new property tax rates with any certainty, the JLBC said Mogollon County - and Scottsdale residents therein - would be the only county that could have lower rates.
This isn't the first time Republican lawmakers have proposed splitting Maricopa County.
A similar proposal by Hoffman following the 2020 presidential election was shot down by then-House Speaker Rusty Bowers. In both cases, three of the newly-defined counties would lean Republican while only one would lean Democratic.
Sen. Jake Hoffman was one of 11 to sign off on a slate of phony electors in favor of Donald Trump. Hoffman was also behind a proposed book ban in Arizona schools that left education experts "puzzled" by what it was trying to solve.
During his days as a Queen Creek Town Council member, Hoffman was suspended from social media for running an alleged "troll farm" coordinating teenagers to post right-wing opinions online.
Likewise, Rep. Alexander Kolodin has also been involved in an election scandal. He was one of the attorneys behind a sharpie-fueled conspiracy theory that many deemed "Sharpiegate."
Kolodin's lawsuit alleged that the sharpies used to mark ballots in the 2020 election led to votes not being counted, disenfranchising voters. The concerns over sharpies were debunked, and Kolodin's lawsuit went nowhere.
What would it mean?
The new county lines would significantly weaken the voting power of the Democrat-leaning Maricopa County.
As it is now, Maricopa County is home to more than 4.4 million residents, according to the 2020 Census. The county famously went blue in both the 2020 Presidential Election and the 2022 Gubernatorial Election.
Under the proposal the new counties would have the following populations:
- Maricopa County: 1.7 million
- Hohokam County: 1.1 million
- Mogollon County: 745,100
- O'odham County: 639,300
The new county lines separate the Republican-leaning east Valley from the more Democrat-leaning Phoenix center. But no matter how you slice it, the Phoenix Metro still holds roughly 65% of the state's population.
Right now, it's hard to say for sure.
Neither Hoffman nor Kolodin's plans have been scheduled for committee hearings, so it's unclear how much support either will garner.
Without moderate-leaning voices like Rusty Bowers in the state House of Representatives, the proposals could ring more popular this time around.
However, Republicans only hold a slim lead in the state legislature. In both the House and Senate, it's only a one-vote majority. Democrats were hostile to Hoffman's proposal in 2022, and now the bill would have to pass Governor Hobbs' desk.
If Kolodin's proposal passes, the issue would go to the ballot box in 2024. At that point, it would be up to the voters whether or not to split Arizona's biggest county.
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