#AZ Legislature Passes ‘Skinny’ Budget with #Bipartisan #Coronavirus Plan (video)

Leader Charlene Fernandez

With the novel Coronavirus pandemic swirling around the Arizona capital and, most likely, through the halls of the legislature, the Arizona House passed the skinny budget with the Senate-negotiated bipartisan package to address the pandemic in Arizona.

The budget includes $50 million to address the Coronavirus. Along with the emergency response funding of $55 million for the Arizona Department of Health Services, which was passed by the Legislature a couple of weeks ago, that makes $105 million, which the Legislature has earmarked for the Coronavirus reponse. The additional $50 million, which was part of the Senate plan, goes to the governor, and he has flexibility on how to spend it and IF it should be spent.

This is a good first step, but some of us think that the House Democratic amendments would have fleshed out this plan a bit more. For example, there were Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan amendments to give $10 million to the food bank system, $40 million to the Housing Trust Fund (to help with rent, mortgage payments and eviction prevention), funds to expand TANF to five years and increase the amount per month (which is now set at 36% of the 1992 poverty rate), and funds to increase unemployment compensation, which, of course, is one of the worst in the country at ~$240/week.

None of these specifics got into the budget. We will have to watch Governor Ducey and what he does with his flexibility on spending the funds we have allotted. No one knows exactly what the future will bring, so some flexibility is a good thing.

The legislature adjourned until April 13, three weeks from now. Who knows where we will be in three weeks. As of today, March 24, 2020, Arizona has 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths. Two weeks ago, the number jumped from six cases to nine. Almost 100 confirmed cases were added between yesterday and today.

Continue reading #AZ Legislature Passes ‘Skinny’ Budget with #Bipartisan #Coronavirus Plan (video)

#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)

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)

More Transparency in Commerce Authority Tax Giveaway Deals Is Needed (video)

UA College of Medicine

Today’s video is about HB2409, small business investment tax credit extension. This is also known as the Angel Investor Tax Credit. In the big scheme of tax giveaways in the state of Arizona, this one is sort of small potatoes dollar wise, but I still have issues. It is an extension if $2.5 million per year tax credit for 10 years. The angel tax credits are for “qualified investors,” people who are licensed, trained, and smart enough to play the stock market and make otherwise risky investments wisely because of their expertise. [My layman’s definition.] 

I have attended several Bioscience Roadmap events where they showcase research and new discoveries from the universities that are … just …about… ready for market. What they need is venture capital to get the new drug discovery or the next medical device from our universities to production to market.

I am very familiar with this topic because ever since I started my own small business in 1986, I have been writing about or working in public health and medical research. In fact, the first Bioscience Roadmap event that I attended featured Dr. Gene Gerner, Dr. Tom Grogan and the story of how their research at the Arizona Cancer Center blossomed into huge NCI research grants, new drugs, and successful UA spinoff businesses. I knew them, wrote about their research, and photographed them when I worked in the communication office at the cancer center.

My point is that I value scientific research and believe that research jobs (and related jobs that come with big grants) are some of the best jobs in our state. One of the reasons that I don’t support the angel investment tax credit is that I found out that only 30% of the funds go to businesses that spinoff from our research universities. Also, there is a $10 million ceiling to qualify as a “small start-up business” (who is eligible to receive funds from angel investors). If your business has $9 million in assets, is it really as “small business start-up”? 

Continue reading More Transparency in Commerce Authority Tax Giveaway Deals Is Needed (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)

#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)

If Arizona Is ‘Pro-Life,’ Let’s Look Beyond the Womb (video)

If Arizona is truly a “pro life” state, it’s time to think big on maternal and child health rather than thinking small. Let’s go beyond the womb with our “pro-life” ideals and help Moms and their children lead healthier, safer lives.

I have met with more than 100 people and analyzed the data, the needs, the costs, and the gaps in services in maternal and child health in Arizona for more than a year.

The bottomline is that Arizona has stingy policies, cumbersome bureaucracy, and unnecessarily lengthy application procedures that cost money and lives and limit access to healthcare. I ran on this issue in 2015, and five years later, I am shocked at how right I was.

Did you know that Arizona is dead last– #50 — in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)? ACEs include food insecurity, housing insecurity, loss of parent(s) due to incarceration, death, addiction or abandonment and similar sad scenarios.

Did you know that only 6% of the people eligible for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Need Families) in Arizona actually get it? Not even all Arizonans living in extreme poverty get TANF.

Did you know that women, who are eligible for AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid system), are coming to indigent clinics pregnant with no prenatal care, no insurance, and no money?

It is morally unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible to deny basic healthcare, food security, housing security, and a solid education Arizona’s children and their parents.

Continue reading If Arizona Is ‘Pro-Life,’ Let’s Look Beyond the Womb (video)

Tax Cuts R Us… #WhatCouldGoWrong (video)

revenue neutral

Instead of “Ditat Deus” (God Enriches), Arizona’s motto should be “Tax Cuts R Us.”

Today in the Ways and Means Committee, we heard three tax giveaway bills: HB229 (corporate welfare for utility companies); HB2355 and HB2356 (increases to the 25% charitable tax credit passed in 2019); and HB2358 (increases to the dependent tax credit).

HB2293 exempts the purchase of electric storage units from sales tax (AKA Transaction Privilege Tax or TPT) and from use tax. When I asked Rep. Tim Dunn, the sponsor of the bill, who benefits from this, he said the utility companies benefit from it, but consumers will see a financial benefit because their rates will go down. (Really? When has that ever happened?)

The industry lobbyist made many circular arguments trying to convince us that giving utilities a tax break was good for consumers. Currently, there are eight rate increase cases before the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), including rate increase requests from APS and other electric utilities. When I started talking about rate increases and the relationship to infrastructure investment by utility companies, Committee Chair Ben Toma said that I was off-topic. Dunn and the energy lobbyist were the ones that said giving APS, TEP and SRP a tax break was going to lower costs to consumers. I believe that I was totally on topic when I said that these things were likely to raise our rates in the long term, not lower them.

Continue reading Tax Cuts R Us… #WhatCouldGoWrong (video)