Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video)

Arizona House Democratic Caucus, 54th Leg.

Things are moving fast at the Arizona Capital regarding the FY21 budget and a recess or sine die for the Legislature.

You may remember that last week the legislature passed a continuation of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and it included $55 million to fight the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Three options are swirling around the capital this week. There is talk about passing a “skinny budget” which would have only a few minor changes from the current fiscal year budget. There are three options: pass a skinny budget, recess for a while, and come back to everything this is on the table; pass the skinny budget and sine die (end the session); or pass the skinny budget with language about how to spend the $55 million in Coronavirus funds and sine die.

The House Democrats brainstormed about ideas and legislation to fight the spread of the Corona virus and to help people and businesses impacted by the shutdown.  Our full Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan is below. This plan was crafted into budget amendments by our staff.

We could pass the skinny budget and end the session as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18. Stay tuned. Headed for the capital now. We have some Floor votes this afternoon. [Posted on Facebook on March 17, 2020.]

Continue reading Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video)

#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)

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)

Is 5G ‘Risky Business’? (video)

technology

Today’s video starts with a walk down memory lane to HB 2365. This was a very complicated, major telecom bill that passed the Legislature in 2017. I was the only person in the Legislature who voted “no” on the final read. I believe I was the last person to vote. Rep. Isela Blanc turned to me and said “You’re voting ‘no’? You should explain your vote.”

I didn’t explain my vote because my stance was part hunch.

I originally voted “yes” on HB2365. (I remember being skeptical, but it was sold as no big deal.) I voted “no” when it came back from the Senate with amendments for two reasons. 1) The bill included a lot of accelerated depreciation, which I interpreted as a tax break for the telecom corporations. I remember asking questions of the staff regarding the cost, and there wasn’t really any clear answer about cost. 2) The bill was very complicated. I remember the explanation alone being pages long, and we had to make a decision very quickly. I voted “no” because I thought we really didn’t know what we were voting on.

Continue reading Is 5G ‘Risky Business’? (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)

#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)

What’s on the #AZHouse Ways & Means Agenda? More Tax Cuts! (video)

Republicans

The alternative headline for this blog post could be: Are eight tax cuts in two weeks too many? I think so.

Last week, I said that the State of Arizona should change its motto from Ditat Deus (God Enriches) to Tax Cuts R Us.

Looking at this Wednesday’s Ways and Means Committee agenda with four more tax giveaways on it, I stand by my assertion. Eight tax cuts in two weeks? That is fiscally irresponsible.

Today’s video is about HB 2732 (tax credits; affordable housing), but HB2404 (prime contracting; exemptions; certificates), HB2409 (small business investment credit; extension), and HB2629 (TPT; exemption; pacemakers) are also on the agenda. (On the pacemakers, the Dems are wondering why those aren’t already sales tax exempt, since they are medical devices.)

For the last few years, the Legislature has considered (but not passed) tax credits for developers who agree to build affordable housing. I have voted against this every year because there are better ways to make sure that people can afford a place to live– like paying a living wages, fully funding the Housing Trust Fund, and eliminating tax giveaways for luxury apartments.

HB 2732 is a bit less generous with the developers than previous versions of this bill, but this bill still takes millions from the general fund over the next ~20 years. This tax credit is capped at $8 million a year for 10 years. If we pass this, the first year cost would be $8 million, $16 million the second year, $24 million the third year, and up from there to $80 million in year 10. The question is, will we be able to afford $80 million out of the general fund in 2031? (After all, the Republicans have proposed eight tax cuts in the past two weeks! Is there plan to break the bank on the general fund? Their proposals are fiscally irresponsible.)

Continue reading What’s on the #AZHouse Ways & Means Agenda? More Tax Cuts! (video)

#AZ Republican Budget Cuts Taxes by $386 Mil & Shortchanges K-12 (video)

One of the prevailing messages from the grassroots in 2018 was: no more tax giveaways until the schools are fully funded. Republicans didn’t get that message. They also didn’t get the Invest In Ed message that we — the people– think the rich could pay more in taxes to help fund education.

The Republican budget cuts income taxes, TPT and fees by $386 million and leaves education and other needs underfunded (or unfunded).

We started the year with a $1 billion surplus to invest in the People’s To-Do List: education, infrastructure, healthcare and safety and security. The Republicans have added bits of money to these areas — just enough to make it look like they’re doing something— but the need is much greater.

Republicans are ignoring multiple crises that are brewing in our state including unnecessary maternal and child death; rock bottom education funding; crumbling roads, bridges and school buildings; lack affordable and low-income housing; the shortage of teachers, doctors and nurses; too many people living in poverty; lack of access to affordable healthcare… need I go on?

Continue reading #AZ Republican Budget Cuts Taxes by $386 Mil & Shortchanges K-12 (video)

What’s the News on the #AZ Budget? Check Out Video & Town Hall

Many constituents have asked me where the budget is and what’s going on– after all, it is May. On the budget, the status quo of the past month still exists. All of the budget action continues to be behind closed doors, among a closed group of Republicans.

In addition to the Democrats, there are a significant number of House Republicans who are not part of the budget process, and they’re grumbling about it. This is a state budget– not the budget for a small town church. The deacons and the pastor don’t get to decide the budget on their own in the back room. The budget should be negotiated with all parties at the table– not just a handful of those close to power. Democrats make up 48 percent of the Arizona House. When more than 50 percent of the Legislature is kept in the dark and has to rely on rumors, that is not a fair process, and it ultimately hurts the people of Arizona.

Except for the Governor’s budget, which has been public for months, and some leaked details about the Senate Republican budget, little is known about the budget, beyond a few trial balloons. What we do know is that the Senate Republican budget is far more conservative and not even close to Governor Doug Ducey’s budget.

This chasm in the GOP has left an opening for Democrats. The House Democrats will unveil our balanced budget ideas on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.  We have been saying since January that we agreed with parts of the governor’s budget– like full tax conformity and more money for P-20 education. [Stay tuned for details.]

On the right, Senator J.D. Mesnard and other tax cut fans still want to zero-out the money the state could bring in from tax conformity (~$150 million) and Wayfair (~$85 million). There are multiple trial balloons about making the income tax rates flatter. One proposal is to have only two personal income tax brackets. This is a horrible idea– unless, of course, your goal is to return to austerity and Draconian budget cuts, while making your rich donors happy. Under the Republican proposals to eliminate or lower tax brackets, rich people would pay less, and the rest of us could pay more. (Think of the Republican tax bracket plan as Arizona’s mini-Me to the Trump Tax Cut and Jobs Act. Both significantly lower taxes for the wealthy by reducing the top tax rate.)

Continue reading What’s the News on the #AZ Budget? Check Out Video & Town Hall