#COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

Phoenix with no traffic

Inhabitants of Earth are nearly six months into the most disruptive year of our lives, thanks to the novel Coronavirus. The United States was slow to react to the pandemic that had already spread across Asia and Europe and killed thousands. Early denial by leaders in multiple countries– like the US, Brazil, Russia, India, and the UK– has proven deadly for the general population.

As of today, June 14, 2020, there  have been 7,767,336 cases and 429,555 deaths worldwide. Although the US has 4.25% of the world’s population, we have close to 30% of the cases (2,074,526) and 30% of the deaths (115,436).

Those of us who are not essential workers, sheltered in place for roughly two months as states declared public health emergencies to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the virus. We stopped driving and flying. Traffic disappeared — even in Phoenix. Air pollution cleared. We could hear the birds sing. We started walking our dogs regularly. We rediscovered or learned new skills like cooking and sewing and took on home projects that had waited for months or years due to lack of time in our previously harried schedules. Gardeners sprouted all over Tucson, as evidenced by the almost continuous activity on the Tucson Backyard Gardeners Facebook Group. We started making COVID19 masks and giving them away to friends and strangers, alike.  We went to more online meetings than we had ever imagined… and even went to church online… and in most cases it worked just fine. With a dearth of COVID19 information from the government and loads of misinformation on the Internet, we turned to moderated groups like Fear > Facts Tucson Coronavirus Facebook Group for trusted updates. We were separate, but we built community in different ways to stay connected. Did we really need all of the meetings … the events … the driving … the flying … the stress … the missed evenings with family?

Continue reading #COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

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: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Trailers in Midtown Tucson

There are multiple reasons why Arizona has an affordable housing crisis. Chronically low wages; years of under-funding social safety net programs; high student loan, credit card or medical debt; and aggressive evictions have forced far too many Arizonans to live with housing insecurity.

Wages in Arizona are 85% of the national average. Only 6% of Arizonans who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) actually get it. In Pima County, the eviction rate is 30 per day– that’s roughly 1000 per month. 

To use a medical analogy, HB2732 (affordable house tax credits) treats the symptoms of the affordable housing crisis– not the disease. The disease is poverty. 

Continue reading #AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

With #HB2872, #AZGOP Uses #ALEC Legislation to Attack Labor Unions (video)

Writers Union joins ASARCO picket

Arizona Republicans are on the attack in 2020. We have heard anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-voter, and anti-immigrant legislation so far, and now to round out the set– we have anti-union legislation. Today’s featured bad bill is HB2872 proposed by Majority Leader Warren Petersen. It is an anti-union model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Unions are private organizations, and this bill puts unnecessary, burdensome regulation and reporting requirements on unions that are not required of any other businesses. In fact, when I read HB2872, I thought, “Gosh, I would love to have this level of cost-benefit analysis reporting from my private insurance company regarding their profits and losses, salaries, and how much they actually spend on my care, compared to how much I pay.” But they aren’t required to do that.

HB2872 is national, model legislation that is duplicative and unnecessary because the reporting is already required by the federal government, and it is published online– for everyone to see. So, why is this bill necessary?

Continue reading With #HB2872, #AZGOP Uses #ALEC Legislation to Attack Labor Unions (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)