View from the Left Side

Arizona Is #1 in Voter Suppression (video)

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There’s never a dull moment in the Arizona Legislature when we debate voter suppression. There are more than 30 voter suppression bills currently in play. Arizona Republicans are #1 in the nation for their productivity. The sheer volume of bad bills that make it harder to vote, harder to register to vote, and easier to hide campaign donations is staggering. Many thanks to the hundreds of people who signed into RTS against these terrible attacks on your right to vote.

Continue reading Arizona Is #1 in Voter Suppression (video)

Should Community Colleges Offer 4-Year Degrees? (video)

Picacho Peak, rural Arizona

Should Arizona community colleges be allowed to offer four-year degrees? I would like to hear your opinions on this. I am on the fence.

“COVID orphan” bill HB2523 would allow Arizona community colleges to offer four-year degrees. According to supporters, besides being cheaper (because students would be local and rates would be lower), expanded capabilities for community colleges would allow them to offer degrees in subjects not offered by the universities.

I asked the sponsor Rep. Becky Nutt what subjects they would offer, and she said it was up to them. The problem with that reply is that the Legislature eliminated the community college oversight board several years ago. The university system has the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) to oversee the system. Community colleges have no ABOR. I think they need oversight and coordination if they’re going to be allowed to expand like this.

Continue reading Should Community Colleges Offer 4-Year Degrees? (video)

Economic Development Across Arizona (video)

Phoenix

Business incentives, also known as tax giveaways, are common up here in the Arizona Legislature. Today’s video is about three different economic development bills. I voted “no” on two of them and “yes” on one.

HB2834 is the ultimate in picking winners and losers. It would allow municipalities to determine projects that would be eligible for lower property taxes in order to reduce their expenses while the project is being developed. (This is similar to GPLET but different.) The upshot is that you could have one building that is getting a dramatically reduced property tax rate right next to another building whose owner is paying their fair share of property taxes. ATRA spoke against this bill and said it could be subject to gift clause legal challenges. This was billed as legislation that would help rural Arizona, but it was a statewide plan to allow municipalities to pick winners and losers. It died in committee with four Republicans and me voting “no,” and three Dems and two Republicans voting “yes”.

HB2282 is a small business assistance grant using federal dollars. It would distribute $5000 grants to truly small business to help them keep afloat or help them re-invent themselves for the post-COVID era. It has limited time frame, it will help Local First businesses, and it uses federal dollars we have. It easily passed on a bipartisan vote. This was also a state wide economic development plan, but the bill sponsor, Rep. Aaron Lieberman, had metrics built into it to make sure that rural Arizona gets their fair share.

HB2649 is the 10-year continuation of tax incentives for data centers. When you store your data and information on the cloud, it’s actually being stored in a giant facility in Phoenix. The Lobbyist said that this 10 year program have been really successful because now Arizona has 25 data centers that qualify for this tax giveaway. I asked where the data centers are located and how many jobs were created. The Lobbyist presentations were very thin considering this is a 10 year multi million dollar program. When I had my public relations business, one of my services was writing and designing annual reports. There should be a 10 year recap on what’s been accomplished by this program, how much it costs and how many jobs were created where — not just nebulous factoids and random data points.

Continue reading Economic Development Across Arizona (video)

More 5G Preemption & Tax Break Bills in #AZHouse (video)

5G tower

This is the last week for House committees to hear House bills and for Senate committees to hear Senate bills. Consequently, the agendas are very long on almost all committees. There is a lot of opportunity on Request to Speak (RTS). The groups like Civic Engagement Beyond Voting, Sierra Club and others do an *amazing* job of telling you what’s going on, and we sincerely appreciate all of your comments and votes on RTS and their hard work.

Unfortunately, because of the sheer volume of BS bills proposed in the Legislature, volunteer groups can’t keep up with everything. 

I have many constituents in Midtown Tucson who are upset with the preemption Bill regarding four and 5G towers that was passed by the legislature in 2017. There are two more telecom industry preemption/tax break bills in the House now. These bills are not on any of the popular distribution lists.

Continue reading More 5G Preemption & Tax Break Bills in #AZHouse (video)

#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.]

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

RTS Alert HB2391 & HB2255: Transparency in Government. Yes! (video)

World View Enterprises
Let’s talk government transparency.
Lucky for me my committees, so far, have not been totally nuts with radical right wing bills like some of the other committees this year. Yes, we have heard some tax giveaways in both Commerce and Ways and Means but not the extreme ideological social engineering and voter suppression bills that are in other committees.
The Feb.3 Ways and Means Committee agenda included only one bill HB2391, sponsored by Rep. Steve Kaiser, one of the freshmen Republicans. This is a property tax and county government transparency bill from ATRA (Arizona Tax Research Association). Sean McCarthy from ATRA said that all of the counties report their property taxes in different ways. (Not surprising.) HB2391 says that the Department of Revenue (DOR) should design a “worksheet” for the counties to use worksheet and make the data available. I don’t think this goes far enough. I know many Tucsonans who are digging through PDFs and memos on governmental websites to try to determine how their taxes are being spent.
I agree with the push for governmental transparency and standardization in reporting, but I would take this a couple step further. I think these worksheets should be available on the county websites and on the DOR website in an easy-to-find location, and the data should be downloadable in Excel. This allows people — including data nerds, economists, grad students, and interested citizens — to look at the data and analyze it themselves. This is true transparency and accountability, in my opinion.
Many governmental websites are data rich and information poor. There are many numbers but very little context or explanation. For example, my bill HB 2255 is a transparency and accountability bill regarding the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA). I have done a lot of digging around in PDFs on the ACA website to determine the effectiveness of the business incentives that the ACA has been doling out.
When I had my communication and public relations business, writing and designing annual reports was my niche. In fact, most of the little plexiglass statues in my office at the capital are awards that I won for annual reports or other corporate communication documents or programs.
With this background, I am particularly critical of the ACA annual reports that are on their website. First of all, I had to search for “annual report” in order to even find the annual reports. There are lots of cute number graphics, but eventually I found a large PDF which was the actual annual report. Buried in the middle was the number of jobs that are created by the different incentive packages. There was a list of businesses that received big incentive packages (including Caterpillar and Worldview in Tucson) but no indication where these businesses are located. Are most of the business incentives spent in Maricopa County? Probably but it’s hard to tell. What is the long view of these incentives? How many of these businesses are still in business? Many of these businesses got their money years ago, but only one figure is given for job creation. Is that the current number of jobs? Is that the total number of jobs that were created over X number of years? Again you can’t tell from the annual report. Often in a corporate annual report there is historic data like a five-year review or a 10-year review to show growth or change over time. The 10 year review often includes analysis and a continued story from previous annual reports. I never found anything like that on the ACA website.

 

I want transparency in the corporate tax giveaways, how about you?

I am all for more governmental transparency. I think the Arizona Commerce Authority should be included in this push for more transparency and more accountability to the taxpayers of Arizona. If you are on RTS, please give both HB2391 and HB2255 a thumbs up.

[Photo: I took the above photo at a 2017 Chamber of Commerce event at the World View Enterprises headquarters. World View is one of the businesses that received money from the Arizona Commerce Authority and got a new building from Pima County. How much taxpayer money did World View get, and how many jobs did that incentive actually bring to Pima County? This is one of my many questions.]