Dump Trump. Save & Expand Postal Services (video)

Keep the post office

President Trump and Congress have been bailing out businesses with multiple Coronavirus relief packages. One business they haven’t helped is the US Postal Service. In fact, Trump has suggested shutting down the post office and privatizing the services.

I think that is a terrible idea for the American public. The US Postal Service (USPS) is the general public’s most cost-effective and convenient way to send letters and packages to other people in this country. The Postal Service was created by the Founding Fathers because they realized how important it was for us to stay in communication with each other and with the government. President Thomas Jefferson even wanted the newspaper to be delivered free to every person in the US to keep us informed.

Privatization of government services never benefits the people. I can’t think of any instance in which a service was privatized, and the people actually got better service and/or more cost-effective service. With privatization, the service always gets worse, more expensive, and less widespread and universal. It’s costs 55 cents for one first class postage stamp; that is the cost to mail a letter to anyone in the US. To send a Fed Ex letter, it costs $8.50– or $11 if the letter’s destination is more than 601 miles away. Plus, you have to take the letter to Fed Ex to mail it. Privatization is about making money. It’s not about providing quality, low-cost services in a non-discriminatory way, across the entire country equally for everybody. That’s what the Postal Service gives us. If Trump succeeds in privatizing the postal service, thousands of union workers will lose their jobs, costs will skyrocket, convenience will be lost, and people in remote areas will lose mail service or pay ridiculous prices in order to guarantee a profit.

Continue reading Dump Trump. Save & Expand Postal Services (video)

#COVID19 Shows #AZ that Over Reliance on Sales Tax Is Bad Policy (video)

Republicans thanks for the poverty

Since it’s Wednesday, I am wearing red, and today’s video about public education funding.

Yesterday, I was filling out an endorsement questionnaire, and one of the questions was: do you support raising sales taxes to pay for public education?

This question is so January 2020. When we were in session, there was much discussion about extending Prop 301 (Governor Jan Brewer’s “temporary sales tax to save public education”) and raising it to one cent.

This is April 29, 2020. The novel Coronavirus is running rampant throughout the United States and throughout the state of Arizona. We are seeing firsthand what a bad idea it is to balance the state budget on the backs of consumers. Arizona has high sales taxes and low corporate taxes compared to other states. With the shelter in place order and high unemployment, sales and sales taxes are down across the board. Consequently, state and local revenues are down across the board.

Arizona has one of the most volatile state budgets in the country because if it’s over reliance on sales tax– coupled with low corporate income taxes, billions of dollars in corporate tax giveaways, and lack of a state property tax. When regular folks don’t have cash to spend, the whole state suffers because the government is relying on YOU to buy stuff and pay tax on those sales. Corporate Arizona… not so much… besides low corporate income taxes, they regularly ask for and get TPT (sales tax) breaks from the Arizona Legislature. Remember this story from the beginning of session: Microsoft Wants a Sales Tax Break Because ‘Electricity Is Too Expensive in Arizona’ (video).

Continue reading #COVID19 Shows #AZ that Over Reliance on Sales Tax Is Bad Policy (video)

Computer Models Predict Dire #COVID19 Conditions for #AZ Residents & Prisoners (video)

COVID19 computer models

For the politicians and businesses who are in a hurry to open up Arizona’s economy… SOON… the data, the computer models, and the small-government Arizona Way are not on your side.

Arizonans are suffering through a perfect storm of economic, ideological and medical circumstances that are working against us as our state government limply responds to the Coronavirus outbreak. First and most glaring, Arizona’s small-government Republican governors and legislators have been cutting taxes for corporations and the rich and balancing the budget on the backs of the people for decades. This has resulted in:

  • One of the most volatile state budgets in the country
  • An over-reliance on high sales taxes at state and local levels
  • Extremely low corporate taxes
  • Annual budgets riddled with corporate carveouts and tax giveaways
  • Economic vulnerability when there are interruptions in retail sales
  • Wages that are 85% of the national average
  • Far too many residents holding multiple gig economy jobs
  • Stingy social safety net programs (TANF, childcare subsidies, pre- and post- natal care, housing assistance)
  • High poverty
  • Underfunded public health, public education, and higher education systems
  • Statewide healthcare provider shortages
  • Counties declared as healthcare deserts
  • The worst rate of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the US
  • The least transparent state Legislature.

So… even before the novel Coronavirus hit the planet, many Arizonans were living on the edge economically, thanks to the Republican Party’s fixation with small, stingy government, privatization, deregulation, and tax giveaways. Add the state’s slow response to the COVID19 pandemic to the ideological economic mess we were already in, thanks to years of austerity, and it’s obvious why Arizona’s COVID19 cases are still increasing and getting “back to business” isn’t happening soon.

Continue reading Computer Models Predict Dire #COVID19 Conditions for #AZ Residents & Prisoners (video)

Prison & Long-Term Care #COVID19 Data Needed to Judge Virus Spread in #AZ (video)

prison

Forty percent of Arkansas’ COVID19 cases are prisoners. In a Marion, Ohio prison, more than 1800 prisoners and 100 guards have tested positive for novel Coronavirus. That is 73% of the inmates in that prison. Although prisons and jails are hotspots for the novel Coronavirus across the country, Arizona has no clue what in happening in our prisons with COVID19.

We have tested only 0.4% of the 41,594 prisoners in Arizona. NONE of the nearly 5000 women at the Perryville prison have been tested. Only six of the 5000 prisoners in the Yuma prison have been tested. Arizona is in the dark about the extent of the novel Coronavirus spread in our prison system, and Governor Ducey and the Department of Corrections  (DOC) are making no moves toward improving the situation or the lack of transparency. The DOC has a dashboard up, but the data are minimalist.

In addition to not knowing what’s going on in the prisons, there is no transparency in the Arizona data related to COVID19 in long-term care facilities. In New York, 25% of the COVID19 cases are in long-term care (LTC) facilities including the senior living centers. Arizona long-term care providers tell me they are providing data to federal, state and county governments, but those data are not on the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) website.

The people of Arizona are being kept in the dark about COVID19 in prisons and LTC centers. Many of us have loved ones in an assisted living center, a nursing home, a skilled nursing facility, a jail, or a prison– or who work there.

Until we know the extent of infection in these high-risk facilities, we have no idea what the spread of the novel coronavirus is in the state of Arizona. The caregivers and prison guards are unknowingly working with infected patients and inmates without protective gear. This situation puts prisoners, guards and all of their families at risk.

Continue reading Prison & Long-Term Care #COVID19 Data Needed to Judge Virus Spread in #AZ (video)

#AZLeg, Inquiring Minds What to Know: Are We Done Yet? (video)

Arizona House

Many of you have recently asked me what the Legislature is up to. After all, we haven’t been at the capital since March 23.

Today’s video is meant to answer the question: Are you done or what?

OK. We’re not done for the year. On March 23, the Legislature passed a “skinny budget” with the Senate bipartisan plan that included $50 million to fight the Coronavirus. After that, we voted to adjourn until April 13 (or until needed or it’s safe). Legislators and their assistants are all working remotely.

There is a lot of speculation about the Legislature, now that President has given up on his prediction that everything will be back to normal by  Easter and is promoting staying at home through the month of April. The Legislature could vote remotely or come back with a skeleton crew and sine die (end for the year) or extend the adjournment.

The Capital Times is reporting that if we did indeed sine die now, only about 60 bills will have passed and been signed into law this year. Traditionally, the Legislature passes more than 300 bills a year. (More than 95 percent of these bills are Republican bills, even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Legislature.) As a long-time Arizona voter, I remember asking myself how in the world can they could pass so many bills every year, particularly when the Republicans promote themselves as party of small government, and they’ve been in charge for decades.

Now, as a two-term Democratic representative, I know that the vast majority of the new laws passed by Arizona Republicans are totally unnecessary and often harmful to segments of Arizona’s  population. They are NOT the party of small government, obviously,

I relish the idea of passing ~60 bills in 2020, rather than 300. Legislation to enable pet projects, pet vendettas and sweetheart tax deals for utilities and multinational corporations seem completely irrelevant and wrong-headed during a mismanaged public health crisis. 

It would be a great thing for the citizens of Arizona if the Legislature passed fewer bills. In 2020, Legislators proposed a record number of bills, more than 1700. If we end the session now, hundreds of bad bills that would have passed in a normal year will be dead! This includes ~20 voter suppression bills; >18 tax giveaways that could total a $1 billion per year of lost future revenue; a bill that allows pawn brokers to become payday lenders; a bill that criminalizes people from standing on the median; a bill that forces us to buy license plates more often just so 3M can sell the state of Arizona more reflective coating, the reefer madness ballot initiative, more vanity license plates; several one-off Republican pet projects related to education (other than public education, of course); multiple attacks on Clean Elections, the Citizens Initiative, representative government, local control, and professional credentials, and whatever else is on the Republican to-do list from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona Tax Research Association, the Chamber of Commerce or President Trump. 

It is completely unrealistic that April 13 would be a safe return date to the capital. I think we should sine die by remote vote. We could come up with a bipartisan, mutually agreed upon short list of bills that deserve to pass. Let’s identify 10 bipartisan bills (other than Coronavirus response bills) that deserve to pass– including earned release credits, the grandparent stipend, more money for caregivers in the ALTCS system, and increased district direct assistance for schools. All the bad bills would die. We would leave a few hundred million dollars sitting on the table (because the tax giveaways wouldn’t pass).

With so little commerce going on right now because of the Coronavirus, there is little sales tax being collected. Our state runs on sales tax. We’re going to need those extra funds in the coming months, along with the billion dollars that we have in our rainy day fund.

The Legislature can always come back for a special session.

#AZLeg Should Add Coronavirus Prevention & Control to Budget (video)

hospital

The Coronavirus is spreading rapidly in some US states, including Arizona.

Let’s put this contagion into perspective. One man in New York has been linked to 28 cases of Coronavirus. Last week, we heard about Coronavirus in one senior living facility in the Seattle area; one week later, there are Coronavirus cases in nine senior living facilities in that area. When I recorded my video (below), there were three cases in Maricopa County. By the end of the day, there are six confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Arizona, including one in Pima County, and at least one Arizona Congressman has been exposed. Everything is moving fast.

Can the state of Arizona do more to protect the public? I think so. For the second year in a row, the state has extra funds to invest– $635 million in one-time funds and $300 million in ongoing funds. If you follow my video updates, you know that House Republicans have proposed 18 tax giveaway bills, which, if they all passed and were signed into law, could total more than $1 billion. [For the record, I am not criticizing the state’s response to the Coronavirus. I am suggesting that the state take a more active role in preventing the spread by investing in tactics to keep people healthy.]

For months, I have been saying instead of giving away taxes to big corporations, utility companies, and selected special interest groups, we should be investing it in programs to help the people of Arizona, like reducing Adverse Childhood Experiences, fully funding public education, and fixing our roads.

Enter the Coronavirus… here is something we should be budgeting for… now.

Continue reading #AZLeg Should Add Coronavirus Prevention & Control to Budget (video)