#AZHouse Republicans Push ‘Skinny’ Budget with Little Attention to #Coronavirus (video)

Rep. Warren Petersen

I have had two phone meetings already this morning [March 19, 2020] about the Democratic response to the novel Coronavirus on the state and federal level.

The first call was with House Dems, and we discussed our budget amendments that address the Coronavirus crisis. The second call was with Senator Kirsten Sinema, who outlined what the Congress is doing. She strongly emphasized that we lean on Governor Doug Ducey and Legislative Republicans to take the crisis and the potential loss of life seriously.

Currently, House Republicans plan to push the FY21 budget through with no Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan attached.

I recorded this video just a few minutes ago as I wait to be joined in to the Arizona House Floor debate on the budget.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Push ‘Skinny’ Budget with Little Attention to #Coronavirus (video)

#Arizona Steps Up #Coronavirus Response with Emergency Declaration & $55 million (video)

Arizona House

A week ago, on Monday, March 9, I urged for the state of Arizona to make a serious financial investment in prevention and control of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Tuesday, March 10, several House Democrats met to discuss prevention, control, treatment, and economic strategies to combat the Coronavirus in Arizona. Later that day, the House Democratic Leadership met with Governor Doug Ducey’s staff, urged appropriation of significant funds to get ahead of the outbreak, and discussed House Democratic Caucus ideas.

On Wednesday, March 11, Ducey declared a state of emergency in Arizona, hours after health officials announced the ninth case in Arizona and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. At that point, there were three cases in Maricopa County, five in Pinal and one in Pima.

On Thursday, March  12, our first vote of the day was to suspend the rules and pass SB1051 to continue the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and appropriate $55 million from the Rainy Day Fund to ADHS to fight COVID-19. Any funds that are unspent at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2021) will go back to the Public Health Emergency Fund. In addition, KTAR reported that the federal government had promised $12 million for Arizona.

Continue reading #Arizona Steps Up #Coronavirus Response with Emergency Declaration & $55 million (video)

Tax Giveaways, Gentrification, & Housing in Tucson (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

On Sunday, March 1, 2020, I was the keynote speaker at a South Tucson community forum on tax giveaways (specifically the GPLETs), gentrification, housing, and poverty. The following is my speech.

Thank you all for coming, and I especially want to thank Brian Flagg of Casa Maria for organizing this.

You may know me as a Legislator now, but old friends in the audience also know me as a political blogger with Blog for Arizona.

Gentrification, Rio Nuevo, incentivizing development with tax giveaways, corporate welfare… these are topics that I have been researching and writing about for more than 10 years.

During that 10-year time frame, I have also been advocating for public banking as a way to self-fund infrastructure projects, tackle student debt and spur economic development through low-interest loans—not giveaways. Public banking is based upon a public private partnership between a state bank and local community banks and small local businesses—like those represented by Local First.

The major problem with public banking is that you have to trust the government to make the system work for everyone—not just for the corporations and the wealthy, as out current system works. After almost four years in the Legislature, I trust the Arizona government far less than I did before. The belly of the beast is not a pretty site.

So… where does that leave us?

As a blogger, I theorized that layers of tax breaks—beyond Rio Nuevo– were fueling the development in the city core.

Do you remember when Molly McKasson lost the mayoral race to Bob Walkup in 1999? She was successfully painted as an old hippie chick who wasn’t ready to lead. Walkup was the successful Raytheon exec who would run Tucson like a business.

McKasson was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “It’s too bad that Tucson has decided to put all of its eggs in the developers’ basket.”

She was spot on!

Twenty years later, downtown is gleaming with new buildings, and everyone in power points to the new buildings as a sign of success downtown.

But at what cost?

Continue reading Tax Giveaways, Gentrification, & Housing in Tucson (video)

#HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)

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.

Continue reading #HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)

What Is the Cost? 18 Tax Giveaways Pass #AZ House Ways & Means (video)

Arizona's fiscal cliff

The sheer volume of tax credits, tax cuts, tax shifts, and miscellaneous tax giveaways in this Legislative session is mind boggling. Will the Arizona House pass one billion dollars in tax giveaways in 2020? It could happen. To say that this behavior is fiscally irresponsible is a gross understatement.

The House Ways and Means Committee has passed 18 tax giveaways in 2020, and those bills are now hitting the House floor for debate and votes. Six of the 18 already have passed the House: HB2355, HB2356, HB2293, HB2732, HB2778, and HB2779. (See descriptions below.) These six will eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue from the General Fund, and there are 12 more tax giveaways to be voted on. As noted in previous blog posts, these tax giveaways primarily benefit large corporations– like Microsoft, APS, TEP, SRP, SW Gas– specific business groups or industries, and wealthy Arizonans.

It is often said that a budget is a moral document. In our state budget, the Legislature supports corporations and wealthy Arizonans with never-ending, multi-year tax giveaways, that often have inflation adjusters. Arizona wouldn’t have an affordable housing problem, crumbling infrastructure, and grossly underfunded education system if the Legislature had long-term plans and multi-year, inflation-adjusted budgets to address those problems. Instead, programs and services that benefit the people of Arizona are lucky to get one-time funding and beg for more each year (or pass citizens initiatives).  We don’t have a budget surplus; we have chronically underfunded programs.

Continue reading What Is the Cost? 18 Tax Giveaways Pass #AZ House Ways & Means (video)

How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

sleeping baby

Several times during the tax cut debates on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Ben Toma and other Republicans repeated the mantra that Arizona has a “budget surplus”. The only reason that we have funds that have not been allocated is because we have had decades of budget cuts and chronic underfunding of important programs like public education(!), the Housing Trust Fund, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and so forth. It’s not that there is no need in our state, and, so therefore, we have extra cash. We don’t have extra money.

Also, several times during the committee meeting, I reminded everybody that Arizona is worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are not only shortchanging our school children by underfunding education, we are shortchanging small children before they ever get to school. It is highly ironic that Arizona is the country’s #1 “pro-life” state and also #50 in ACEs, due to our stingy policies and poor treatment of our children.

In my study of gaps and inequities in maternal and child health in Arizona, I took a comprehensive approach and looked through the lens of the social determinants of health. Two contributing factors to Adverse Childhood Experiences are housing insecurity and food insecurity.

Continue reading How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

#AZLeg UPDATE: 12 Tax Giveaways Pass House W&M Committee in 3 Weeks (video)

Save our billionaires

All 12 tax giveaways or revenue reductions heard in the House Ways and Means Committee in the past three weeks passed– many on bipartisan votes. For the record, I was the only person who voted “no” on all of the tax giveaways.

To be clear, none of these tax reductions do anything to: increase education funding, increase access to healthcare, increase prenatal care, reduce adverse birth outcomes, reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences, reduce student debt, increase wages, foster workforce development, reduce poverty, or provide food and housing security for Arizonans. If you are not Microsoft, APS, TEP, SRP, SW Gas, qualified investors, resort owners, developers, contractors, or just rich people, you are not getting a tax break from the Republican Party.

In fact, to pay for education, the Republican Party wants to raise your sales tax while lowering taxes for corporations and elites. Do you want to pay 10 or 11% of sales tax on every purchase? If you don’t, just say no to tax breaks for Microsoft, APS, SRP, TEP, SW Gas, and the richest Arizonans.

Also, remember…

  1. Many of these tax breaks increase over time.
  2. Most of them have no sunset date.
  3. Most of them have no cost estimate.
  4. None of them have clear economic impact or job creation numbers– beyond the nebulous trickledown economics figures normally given by the Arizona Commerce Authority.
  5. None of them have clear performance measures.
  6. It takes 2/3 vote to get rid of them.
  7. No one has done the math on the total cost of all of them on an annual basis going forward.

We are creating a giant revenue hole in the future. This is fiscal irresponsibility.

Continue reading #AZLeg UPDATE: 12 Tax Giveaways Pass House W&M Committee in 3 Weeks (video)

Tax Cuts R Us: Third Round of Massive Tax Cuts in House Ways & Means (video)

Arizona House

How can a “pro-life” state be #50 for Adverse Childhood Experiences? Because the Arizona Legislature prioritizes corporate welfare over child welfare. It’s that simple.

The House Ways and Means Committee has passed six tax breaks in the past two weeks. Tomorrow’s agenda has 12 bills, including eight additional bills that are tax breaks or other means to reduce revenue. The Microsoft tax break (HB2771) that I warned you about a few weeks ago in on the agenda.

Ways and Means has passed six tax cuts so far in 2020. Has anyone done the math to determine the future annual hit if all of these tax breaks are passed. Probably not. We don’t have any JLBC costs estimates for some of them, and several are structured to automatically increase over time. The Tea Party– under Governor Jan Brewer, Senate President Russell Pearce, and several Legislators who are still in office– passed massive annual decreases in corporate income taxes, the results of which have been felt in the classrooms. When she left office, Brewer suggested that they may have gone overboard with the tax cuts. When Governor Dough Ducey took over, he said real men aren’t afraid to cuts taxes and has continued to cut, cut, cut. Let’s stop cutting and start investing. We have hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funds this year. Don’t let them give it away like they did last year.

Just to be clear– none of these 14 tax reductions would do anything to directly help public education, access to healthcare, reduction in poverty, workforce development or infrastructure. They are all about cutting taxes or giving tax credits to business.

Here are the bills that could reduce general fund revenue in the queue for Feb. 12. If you want the Legislature to invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure– the People’s To Do List– instead of the corporate wish list, please voice your opinion on Request to Speak (RTS) or by phone or email to your Legislators (regardless of party).

Continue reading Tax Cuts R Us: Third Round of Massive Tax Cuts in House Ways & Means (video)

Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)

child's stove

Arizona is dead last — #50– for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Arizona is not only shortchanging school children, our stingy policies hurt little children before they ever enter the classroom. ACEs include food insecurity; domestic violence; DCS removal; addiction, incarceration, or death of a parent;  or housing insecurity at any level– homelessness, eviction, foster care, etc.

Rep. John Filmore’s bill HB2013 would force teachers to hold back children if they are not performing at grade level– thus eliminating “social promotion” for students who are technically not at grade level. Rep. Jennifer Pawlik– herself a soft-spoken and kind special ed teacher– said that teachers have tools to help children who are progressing but may not be at grade level. Filmore’s bill ignores the expertise of teachers and ignores the fact that some children may need extra help because of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Far too many Arizona children have the chips stacked against them before they are born and due to significant ACEs during their early years, they enter kindergarten with emotional trauma. At a meeting with Amphi School District educators and parents, I learned that 40-50% of Amphi elementary school children who enroll in school in the fall, don’t end the year in the same school. Why? Housing insecurity, eviction, domestic violence, death, poverty, foster care. With low wages and bad policies, we are forcing far too many families to live with hardship.

Holding a student back a grade is second only to death of a parent in childhood trauma. HB2013 just increases the likelihood that Arizona children will be continue to be worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Continue reading Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)

#HB2388: Big Brother Meets Aunt Lydia (video)

With big data surveillance, church recruitment, government-funded, incomplete and biased medical information, and unregulated clinics providing “all wrap-around pregnancy, counseling and post-childbirth services”, HB2388 is Big Brother and Aunt Lydia’s love child.

Last week was draining– with multiple tax cuts in Ways and Means, fake pregnancy centers in Health and Human Services (HB2388), and passage of the Build Your Own Border Wall on the House floor on reconsideration. (Another Zombie Bill brought back from the dead).

I recorded the video (below) late in the day on Thursday after the end of a two-part, marathon health committee meeting with multiple ideological debates. I am proud to serve with Dr. Amish Shah, and Reps. Kelli Butler and Alma Hernandez. The four of us did a great job standing up for patient choice, reproductive rights, medically accurate and unbiased information, science, privacy and separation of church and state.

Continue reading #HB2388: Big Brother Meets Aunt Lydia (video)