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)
Crossover week– when hundreds of bad bills are pushed through both houses– is always difficult. In addition to four 12-hour days this past week, Democrats had the extra pressure of trying to stop the tax giveaway parade before it dances off the cliff with our state’s future.
I used to call these tax giveaways fiscally irresponsible, but with 18 tax breaks poised to pass the Arizona House and more coming our way from the Senate, we have crossed the line into insanity. Of the 18 tax giveaways, 11 have some cost estimate. Those 11 total close to $500,000 annually in new tax breaks starting next fiscal year; there are another 7 tax breaks with unknown costs. They’re not free; the Joint Legislative Budget Commission (JLBC) doesn’t know how to estimate their cost. You can read more detail about these bills these three articles here, here, and here. With so many unknowns, if they all pass, Arizona could be looking at $1 billion in new tax giveaways (AKA lost revenue) in next fiscal year or in the near future, since several of them automatically increase over time, and it takes a two-thirds majority to repeal any of them.
Continue reading Is $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways Too Much? (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)
The Arizona Legislature’s Request to Speak (RTS) system should be on high alert for the House Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6.
We will be hearing Cathi Herrod’s funding bill for the fake pregnancy hotline bill (HB2388). This bill gives $1.5 million a year to the 211 information and referral line, but it has strings attached. The information provided will be tailored by the provider’s religious beliefs.
If this bill or the mirror bill (SB1328) passes, the free public 211 referral line would not be allowed to refer to anyone to any organization or clinic that provides abortions or to any provider that would offer other much-needed public health services like pap smears, pregnancy tests, birth control, HIV tests, and basic public health services… in addition to abortion.￼
These two bills are bad public health policy that force young women and their children into lives of poverty because of an unplanned pregnancy. They cost the state money because 52% of the lives births in Arizona are funded by AHCCCS, the state’s Medical program.
These two bills restrict your access to care based upon someone else’s deeply held religious beliefs. The government should not fund this.
Continue reading No on HB2388 & Yes on HB2068: Someone Else’s Religion Should Not Dictate Your Healthcare (Video)
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)
Monday, January 13, 2020, was opening day at the Arizona Legislature.
Opening day is always fun and full of political drama because there are protests, press conferences with multiple Progressive groups (labor unions, Planned Parenthood, teachers, and others), the House and Senate Democratic Caucus Press Conference, and a big party with great food hosted by House Dems on the 3rd floor.
Southern Arizona unionists filled two buses to come to the Capitol on Monday. Striking ASARCO miners were out in force. Recently, I have been seeing these guys on the strike line down at the ASARCO Mission Unit, when I am wearing a T-shirt, boots and jeans. One of them did a double take when he saw me in a dress, stockings, short high heels, and my power pearls at the Legislature.
Continue reading On Opening Day of #AZLeg, Right-Wing Ideology & the Peoples’ Response on Display (video)
For years, Democrats in the Legislature have been calling for a review of the tax credits and the other tax giveaways. The goal of the review process is to recommend continuation, amendment or repeal of tax credits.
Decades of “business friendly” bipartisan votes in the Legislature to reduce income taxes and boost the economy have left us with $661 million in income tax credits claimed (AKA lost revenue) and more than $1.6 billion in unclaimed tax credits, ready to be cashed in, according to David Lujan, executive director of the Center for Economic Progress. This is not sustainable.
For the first time since 2014, the Joint Legislative Committee to Review Income Tax Credits met on Dec. 19, 2019. This was an historic day, and I was proud to be part of it.
According to statute, this committee is supposed to meet before the end of each calendar year and review tax credits that were passed in designated years. For this meeting, we reviewed tax credits that were passed in years ending in four and nine. We reviewed three tax credits that were recommended for elimination in 2014 (motion made by then Rep. J.D. Mesnard), but no action was taken by the Legislature to actually repeal them. Two of those– Healthy Forest Tax Credit and the Agriculture Pollution Control Tax Credit– were again recommended for elimination at 2019 meeting because they have been mostly unused for years. Income tax credits that are not used for more than four fiscal years are supposed to disappear, but somehow they hang around in the code, even Senator and Committee Chair J.D. Mesnard complained about this at the meeting. The majority voted to continue the other tax credits with additional performance measures attached in some cases. (For the recorded, I voted to repeal all of them. Read on and learn why.)
Continue reading Progressives & Libertarians Debate Tax Credits at #AZLeg Income Tax Credit Review (video)
Voter suppression and unnecessary tinkering with elections have been themes in the Legislature this session.
SB1154 was defeated last week but passed the House today on reconsideration. This bill changes the primary date from the end of August to the beginning of August.
At first blush, this doesn’t seem to be a very big deal. Having the primary at the end of August makes it very close to the general election. Having the primary at the beginning of August gives candidates more time to win the general election l, but it could artificially suppress the primary vote, in my opinion.
If the primary is at the beginning of August, mailed ballots will go out around the Fourth of July. What do Arizonans like to do in July? Leave town! Also, the vast majority of college students will not be in town to vote in July/early August.
We should be facilitating voting — not pass laws that will make it more difficult for some groups.
Continue reading SB1154: Is It a Good Idea to Move AZ Primary Date? (video)
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
That’s all folks! After the pledge, prayer. points of personal privilege (introductions) and a couple of proclamations, the Arizona House has adjourned until Wednesday. Why? Because Rep. David Stringer resigned due to the child sex charges, and the Republicans don’t have 31 members. The Republicans’ refusal to vote or even debate on anything without all 31 of their people in their chairs has really stalled progress this year.
We have done very little on the floor for the past two weeks. Heaven forbid that we would debate or vote on something that has bipartisan support but would pass with the majority of the Yes votes being Democratic.