Throughout last week as we debated multiple tax giveaways, I repeatedly asked, “Is $1 billion in new tax giveaways too much?”
In debate on Thursday, Rep. Mitzi Epstein and I showcased the 18 Republican bills that give away potentially $1 billion and revealed how little the bill sponsors actually know about the revenue losses that their proposals will create. (I say “potentially” because seven tax giveaway bills have an unknown cost. We shouldn’t be passing bills when we don’t know the economic impact!)
On Thursday, we were debating Rep. Bret Roberts’ HB2752, which was projected to be a $64 million hit to the general fund in FY21, $71 million in FY22, and $110 million in FY23. There was a floor amendment that said it change the calculations for the tax break. Roberts refused to answer a my question regarding how the calculations had changed and whether the cost was going to go up or down from the projected figures. It doesn’t necessarily work out well for the Republicans when they refuse to answer questions. Since he refused, I asked Epstein about this. The upshot is that the amendment made Roberts’ bill even worse and pushed it into the unknown cost column, bringing that total to eight tax breaks with an unknown cost.
At the end of each year the JL BC calculates if the state government has any money left over or if we are in the hole. For example, sometimes you’ll hear politicians talk about a $200 million surplus in the structural budget. This means that based on the laws that we passed and the income that we collected we had $200 million left over. Roberts’ bill would look at the structural surplus every year (if there is one) and automatically give half of it away every year.￼￼ The problem with this plan is that it automatically eliminates funds that could be invested in programs like public education, infrastructure, and healthcare. It also eliminates one-time funds that can be used for special projects fixing the air conditioners in the schools, building the Tonto bridge (which the Legislature has promised to do since the 1970s), or responding to natural disasters– like wildfires and the COVID-19 virus.￼
Epstein and I with help from Reps. Kirsten Engel, Kelli Butler, and Isela Blanc were far too effective at poking holes into Roberts’ bill. Eventually, Rep. John Allen tried to shut me up by calling me out of order when I asked Roberts how his income tax giveaway fits with Rep. Ben Toma’s three other income tax giveaways or do they fit together at all? Allen said that asking how the four tax giveaways work together (or not) was off topic.￼ I was able to ask Toma the same question a few minutes later.
What’s ironic about that point of order was that not an hour earlier I asked Rep. Bob Thorpe how his trailer park bill fit with Rep. Gail Griffin’s trailer park bill on the same topic. I was not called out order on that one.
This is a legitimate question when there are multiple bills doing the same thing with different time frames and different dollar amounts attached to them.￼ Why didn’t the bill sponsors of the two trailer park bills talk with each other and stakeholders and craft one trailer park bill? And how about one income tax bill– instead of four? And why 14 corporate tax breaks and nothing to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (except my bills which were never heard)?
Do the Republicans talk with each other? There seems to be no planning, and that’s a problem when we talking about losing $1 billion per year from the general fund.