#AZLeg Should Focus on Food & Housing Security, Not Gambling & Tax Breaks (video)

Robert Reich

Many Arizonans lived with food, housing and financial insecurity before the pandemic hit.

The state of Arizona is doing fine financially — thanks to sales tax revenue (collected primarily from online sales) and pandemic relief from the federal government– but the Legislature is doing little to help those in need. People at the top and people in the middle, who still have their pre-pandemic jobs, are doing OK. The people at the bottom who had low wage jobs or multiple gig economy jobs before the pandemic are the ones who are really suffering during the pandemic. Some of those prolific pre-pandemic gig jobs like rideshare drivers, hotel staff and restaurant workers have almost disappeared. Many of those jobs won’t return because of changes to our lifestyles.

Although Arizona’s economic forecasters warned of the increasing wealth gap in Arizona, these people are being ignored by the Arizona Legislature. The Republican leadership is focusing on tax cuts for the rich people and corporations — rather than focusing in COVID relief or providing food, housing and financially security to struggling Arizona families. What are they offering to the poor to lift themselves out of poverty “by their bootstraps”? Dramatically increased gambling (HB2272). What could go wrong? [Sarcasm font.]

HB 2252 and HB2253 would help them by increasing the TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), by increasing TANF to the full five years and by eliminating the TANF “tricks” that are designed to knock people off of TANF. Increasing TANF from 36% of the 1992 to 40% of the 2020 poverty rate would be roughly $13 million. In Arizona, only 6% of the people who qualify for TANF actually get it.

HB2244 fully funds the Housing Trust Fund, which can fund multiple housing projects from housing subsidies to construction. HB2573 requires landlords to disclose all fees that tenants are required to pay — above the rent. it also allows tenants to opt out of services that they don’t need. High fees on top of rent plus aggressive late fees can lead to evictions. Renters should know the total cost up front.

We have an estimated $400 million “budget surplus” which the governor and the Republicans want to give away in tax breaks. We also have $1 billion in the rainy day fund. It’s raining on many Arizonans. It’s time to expand TANF ($13 million/year) and the Housing Trust Fund ($40 million from unclaimed property). We have plenty of money. Let’s help the people who need it, rather than cutting taxes for the rich and the corporations.

Please give HB2252, 2253, 2244 and 2573 a thumbs up on RTS. Also, check put the gambling bill (HB2772). I have serious concerns about the public health impact of gambling addiction and surveillance of gamblers which is allowed in this bill. (The surveillance state is real, people. As an aside, I signed representative Domingo DeGrazia’s Internet privacy bill today and dropped my 5G study committee bill.)

Thanks for being engaged! We need your support at the Legislature.

This post was originally published on Facebook on February 8, 2021.