Rideshare fee hikes on hold until high court rules on Sky Harbor complaint

The Phoenix City Council voted in December to raise rideshare fees from $2.66 per trip to $4 for all rides to and from Sky Harbor. The fee would gradually increase to $5 by 2024. (Photo by NRKbeta/Flickr via Creative Commons)

PHOENIX – City officials have agreed to delay implementation of higher fees for rideshare companies at Sky Harbor International Airport now that the Arizona Supreme Court is considering whether the fee hike is constitutional.

The fees, approved by the City Council in December, were scheduled to take effect on Feb. 1.

After an investigation prompted by a state representative’s complaint against the city, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Phoenix “likely” violated the Arizona Constitution. Voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that bans cities and towns “from enacting any new or increased tax on services that was not already in effect on Dec. 31, 2017.”

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Brnovich filed a special action Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to take up the issue. He also requested that the court order Phoenix to stay the fee increase pending the court’s decision.

After a Wednesday afternoon scheduling conference with the high court, Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters announced that the city voluntarily agreed to delay charging the higher fee until the court makes its decision.

The City Council voted 7-2 in December for a fee increase from $2.66 per trip to $4 for all rides provided to and from Sky Harbor by Uber and Lyft. The fee would gradually increase to $5 by 2024.

Phoenix officials argue the fee is not a tax on the service and is no different from the fees Sky Harbor charges other companies that do business there.

Attorneys for Phoenix have until Feb. 18 to file arguments on the airport’s behalf with the high court. The Attorney General’s Office then has until March 3 to reply.

It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court will schedule a time for oral arguments for the case. The justices could issue a ruling based only on written arguments.