Microsoft Wants a Sales Tax Break Because ‘Electricity Is Too Expensive in Arizona’ (video)

starve the schools. feed the rich (sarcasm)

Should the Arizona Legislature help Microsoft pay its APS bills?

Tuesday was a light day at the Capital. There was no floor action, but I had time to catch up with colleagues and sign some of their bills. I wanted to tell you about the conversation I had with two Microsoft lobbyists about the tax break that Microsoft wants.

You may remember my blog post on Powers For The People (back in December) about the tax review committee that I was on, due to my membership on the Ways and Means Committee. One of the income tax credits that we reviewed was for an Apple international data center to be built with renewable energy in Mesa. At the time, Apple was offered a TPT (sales tax) break also, but the committee reviewed only the income tax break.

The lobbyists were in my office because Microsoft wants the TPT tax break that was offered to Apple. I told them that I really don’t support tax giveaways to multinational corporations. Period. I don’t support any tax giveaways when ~68% of Arizona women aren’t getting first trimester prenatal care, and that is contributing to AHCCCS wasting $2-4 billion dollars on premature births (Not to mention the long-term health effects of prematurity.) When thousands of Arizona mothers and their children are living in poverty with food and housing insecurity, why would I prioritize a tax break for one of the most successful corporations in the US?

The lobbyist told me that the reason Microsoft needed a TPT tax break because “electricity is too expensive in the state of Arizona.” Microsoft doesn’t want to pay sales tax on electricity for this giant data center. International data centers take a use a lot of electricity because it is a building full of servers and cooled to ~65 degrees. This particular tax break is related to data centers built with renewable (solar) energy, which will already lower their energy cost significantly.

Continue reading Microsoft Wants a Sales Tax Break Because ‘Electricity Is Too Expensive in Arizona’ (video)

Progressives & Libertarians Debate Tax Credits at #AZLeg Income Tax Credit Review (video)

Arizona Legislature tax review committee

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)

‘Democracy in Chains’ Connects Dots on Libertarian & Republican Strategies (video)

Affordable Care Act

If you often scratch your head at the bad bills that the Republicans pass in Congress and in the state legislatures and wonder what their end game is, you should read Democracy in Chains by Nancy McClean.

What you may think are random bad ideas that have somehow gotten into law are actually part of a grand scheme that has been playing out since Brown versus the Board of Education attempted to desegregate public schools in the United States.

An academic, McClean has studied the articles, books and letters of James Buchanan, the economist not the former president. Buchanan was the primary theorist of public choice theory. In the 1950s, public choice theory was used as a rationale to close all of the public schools in the state of Virginia (rather than comply with desegregation) and is being used today to support state-funded vouchers for private and religious schools. In Virginia in the 1950s, the state gave money to white parents for private school vouchers and allowed hundreds of black children to go uneducated for years. Needless to say, this was a travesty of justice.

Continue reading ‘Democracy in Chains’ Connects Dots on Libertarian & Republican Strategies (video)

#StopThief Fair Tax Forum: It’s Time to Review Corp Tax Giveaways (video)

Fair Tax Forum

#RedForEd lifted the veil from our eyes and put the issue of corporate tax giveaways front and center in the fight to restore public education funding in Arizona.

As many of you are aware, the Arizona Legislature is giving away more than $13 billion in taxes every year and using only $10 billion to run the state. It is not sound fiscal policy to use accounting gimmicks and 50 fund transfers to “balance” the budget. It is no surprise that the state owes K-12 education around $1 billion. Thanks to scheduled corporate tax cuts passed by the Tea Party*, beginning in 2011, Arizona’s corporations got to keep an extra $1 billion in 2017. These corporate tax cuts continue through 2019, even though we can’t afford them.

As a result of the anger and frustration that many Tucsonans feel about the Arizona Legislature’s performance, the Stop Thief! Let’s Restore Fair Taxes Community Forum drew a standing room only crowd of diverse participants. The event was hosted by the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA Tucson), with support from many other unions and community groups.

Tax giveaway banner
The star of the tax forum was the 20-ft banner listing 195 of Arizona’s 334 tax giveaways. Arizona is giving away $13+ billion is taxes each year and using only $10 billion to run the state. It is not sound fiscal policy when you use accounting gimmicks and 50 fund transfers to “balance” the budget.

Heart-felt testimonies from current high school students, who explained how school budget cuts have impacted their lives and their schools, opened the forum.

LD9 Rep. Randy Friese gave a detailed presentation on tax revenue and how it has been siphoned off by special interest groups and corporate tax cuts for decades. (Video after the jump.)

My talk focused on specific tax giveaway votes in the 53rd Legislature. focused specific tax giveaway bills and the drama that swirled around the bills that passed and the ones that failed. (Video after the jump.) Excluding any votes related to budget appropriations, all of the tax giveaway votes in the 53rd Legislature were bipartisan— with Democrats and Republicans on both sides.

The Legislature’s mindset on tax giveaways shifted from January 2017– when two Progressive Democrats made a pact to vote against every tax giveaway until the schools were fully funded– to budget night in May 2018. The Progressive viewpoint was: If the state “can’t afford” to fully fund K-12 public education (due to self-imposed austerity), then we “can’t afford” to give away or excuse any more taxes until the schools are on stable footing and fully funded. Thanks to the #RedForEd movement, on budget night 2018, hundreds of teachers, parents, and supporters filled the House gallery and the Capitol lawn and demanded that public education take priority over corporate tax cuts.

As I mentioned in my talk, a thorough tax giveaway review bill and several tax reform or repeal bills were proposed in the Legislature in 2018. Unfortunately, due to the gamesmanship at the Capitol, these bills were not heard because they were proposed by Democrats: Senator Steve Farley and Reps. Mark Cardenas, Randy Friese, and Pamela Powers Hannley.

It’s time to review all of the tax cuts, tax exemptions, tax credits, tax subtractions, and other tax loopholes. Some of these tax giveaways benefit narrow interests– to the detriment of the general fund and the general public. We must determine which tax exemptions benefit the people of Arizona (like the TPT exemptions for food and prescription drugs); which ones benefit special interest groups (like gold bullion enthusiasts); which ones benefit individual corporations (like the infamous four-inch pipe); which ones we are effective and affordable; and how we can spark economic development without breaking our budget and starving all of our educational institutions, as we are now.

Several people told me that they felt hopeful after my talk because so many costly tax giveaways were stopped on a bipartisan vote.  If fact, all of the tax giveaway votes were bipartisan— with Democrats and Republicans on both sides.  This is why it is important to ask every candidate in the 2018 election what their stance is on tax giveaways, the #RedForEd movement, the Invest In Ed Citizens Initiative (to secure long-term funding for K-12), and the Outlaw Dirty Money Citizens Initiative.  Will these candidates fight for the people or will they “take the money and run”?

Continue reading #StopThief Fair Tax Forum: It’s Time to Review Corp Tax Giveaways (video)

Corporate Tax Giveaways Are Key Issue in LD9 Primary (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

The choice is clear in the Legislative District 9 primary race.

Do you want more old-school economic development based on corporate tax breaks and sales tax giveaways? You know… the same policies that starved our public education system, left our infrastructure in shambles, forced thousands of Arizonans to live in poverty, destroyed our state budget by giving away billions in taxes each year, and left Tucson with a 25% poverty rate. If you support giving your taxes away and banking on trickle down economics– vote for challenger in the LD9 race.

If you want a leader who will continue to be the voice of the people in the Arizona Legislature, vote to re-elect me– Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley. I have used my voice, my amendments, my votes, and parliamentary procedures to defend the rights of workers, patients, students, teachers, women, and the underserved. In 2017, Progressive Democrats vowed to vote against every corporate tax cut and tax credit bill until public education is fully funded. In 2018, that line in the sand against tax giveaways and for public education funding became the rallying cry for the most Democrats in the Legislature and for the #RedForEd movement. (You can see some of the tax giveaway votes here.) In my opinion, Arizona government should funding the People’s To-Do List– education, healthcare, safety and security, and infrastructure– instead of funding the corporate wish list.

In his recent speech at the Democrats of Greater Tucson (DGT) luncheon, J.P. Martin, who is challenging Dr. Randy Friese and me in the LD9 primary, made it clear that he is the Rio Nuevo Board’s candidate. He even showed their slides when he pitched creating more sales tax giveaway districts (AKA tax increment financing districts, like Rio Nuevo) around Southern Arizona. He says the northwest Tucson malls “need our help” because there are too many empty stores and young people need something to do on the weekend– like go shopping. (You can read about his talk in Tim Steller’s Political Notebook column here.)

I agree that brick and mortar retail is faltering due to increased online sales and a corporate push to reduce labor and overall costs. I disagree that government should incentivize retail shopping with tax dollars. Tax giveaways drain on our state coffers. Arizona is already upside down on its mortgage. The state government gives away or otherwise excuses more than $13 billion in taxes each year and leaves around $10 billion to run the state.

I support taxing digital goods as a way to level the playing field between online purchases, brick and mortar retail stores, and local small businesses. There are multiple proposals floating around to increase sales tax for a variety of reasons. Further increasing sales tax in Pima County would bring our sales tax rate in the neighborhood of 10%. Taxing local purchases but not digital purchases hurts local businesses. Besides leveling the playing field, taxing digital goods would raise hundreds of millions in much-needed revenue for public education, community colleges and the university system, as well as other crucial needs. Sales tax on digital goods is an increasing revenue stream, unlike store-based sales tax.

Retail store sales and related sales tax are declining nationwide, resulting in store closures. This one of my arguments against pinning Tucson’s economic development future on sales tax generation by brick and mortar retail stores in the downtown Rio Nuevo Tax Increment Financing District (TIF).

I want to know what the public’s total investment in every incentive deal– not just Rio Nuevo. Are taxpayers getting our money’s worth? I have heard the rosy projections and seen the slide shows. I want to see the spreadsheets. Perhaps it is my journalistic Spidy sense, but I am a “show me, don’t tell me” person when it comes to giving taxes away. The public has the right to know the bottom line about Rio Nuevo and any economic development project that uses taxpayer money.

DGT hosts a weekly luncheon with a steady cast of candidates rotating through. My last DGT talk was: Economic Development, Access to Care & Workforce Development: A Progressive Roadmap.  Click on the link to read the speech and watch the video. It provides a great contrast to my challenger’s ideas. (Watch the video after the jump. Also, check out research regarding the reality of TIFs around the country. Seriously, Detroit, $16.5 million for a Whole Foods store?)

Continue reading Corporate Tax Giveaways Are Key Issue in LD9 Primary (video)

#TaxCuts & Deregulation: How Did Your #AZHouse Rep Vote?

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

The volume of bills heard in the Arizona House this past week was down significantly from the crossover week flurry, but we still voted on some doozies.

Tax cuts, sales tax giveaways, deregulation on the edge of risky business, “efficiency savings,” and miscellaneous wacky bills abound.

The capital gains tax cut, which benefited only the wealthiest Arizonans, was a party line vote, with all of the Republicans voting for tax cuts for the 1%. Other than that, the tax giveaways have passed with bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. Votes shift here and there depending upon the cost of the tax giveaway and the stated beneficiary, but the most consistent votes against giving away taxes are cast by Progressives and Libertarians– the same people who killed several tax giveaway bills in 2017. Several of these votes can be seen below the fold and in my Marijuana to Bump Stocks to Tax Giveaways: How did your #AZHouse Rep Vote? blog post from last week.

Continue reading #TaxCuts & Deregulation: How Did Your #AZHouse Rep Vote?

Marijuana to Bump Stocks to Tax Giveaways: How Did Your #AZHouse Rep Vote?

Arizona House, 2018

In the middle of each Legislative Session, there is a frenetic time period called “crossover week”. It is characterized by a flurry of debates and votes in a compressed timeframe. The purpose is to pass on as many wacky bills as possible in each chamber of the Legislature before successful bills are passed to the other chamber. (Hence, the name “crossover week”).

In the last two weeks, the Arizona House has voted on more than 100 bills. I think the House is up to ~250 bills that we have sent to the Senate. Of course, this list includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Below the fold are a few of the recent votes on gun violence, tax giveaways, mandatory sentencing, and drugs. All of these bills are still alive and have been sent to the Arizona Senate. If you don’t like these bills, tell your Senators and Representatives. (On the voting below, green = yes, red = no, purple = excused absence, yellow = absent.)

Continue reading Marijuana to Bump Stocks to Tax Giveaways: How Did Your #AZHouse Rep Vote?

With Massive Tax Cuts from Feds, Big Corps Don’t Need AZ Tax Giveaways (video)

Mama Grizzly

Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin called herself a “Mama Grizzly” because she said she would fight like a Mama Grizzly to protect her children.

Although “Mama Grizzly” was a catchy marketing slogan for the folksy rural mayor from Alaska, the Republican Party has never embraced the idea of protecting children after birth or helping families. Unfortunately, this week Congressional Republicans took their disregard for middle class families one step further by voting for billions of dollars in tax cuts for big corporations and for the richest Americans– while saddling our children and grandchildren with massive debt to pay the bills in the future.

Hmmm… let’s see… what to do… pass legislation that would actually help millions of Americans– like equitably funding public education across the country or fixing the Affordable Care Act (to make it affordable) — OR cut taxes for your rich donors? Cut taxes, of course! With party-line votes to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Congressional Republicans have shown that they are far more interested in enriching the billionaire class than in improving the lives of everyday Americans. Universal healthcare? Food Security? World-class public education? Safe roads and bridges? Financial stability for the middle class? Meh. Congressional Republicans don’t care about pursuing the People’s To-Do List.

Although the majority of Americans see the tax cut bill as unfair, Republicans are on course to deliver the biggest Christmas present… ever… to the 0.01%.

In my opinion, the passage of this massive wealth transfer bill underscores the need for a few new progressive action items…

Continue reading With Massive Tax Cuts from Feds, Big Corps Don’t Need AZ Tax Giveaways (video)

2017 Legislative Report Card

Pamela Powers Hannley

In 2016, I ran for the Arizona House on a platform of economic reform, equality, and tackling the opioid epidemic. I stood up to big-money politics and ran as a Clean Elections candidate, despite much advice to take the money and run.

I am honored that you elected me on Nov. 8, 2016. This year in the Legislature, I fought for fairness and stood up for your rights with my voice, my votes, and my bills.

I am running for re-election in 2018. As a Clean Elections candidate, I have pledged not to take big-money donations from special interests. This is my report card to you, the voters of Legislative District 9. It has been an honor to serve you.

Economic Reform & Public Banking 

Continue reading 2017 Legislative Report Card

Queue the Spooky Organ Music: It’s Budget Time in the #AZLeg (video)

Arizona Legislature

The much-anticipated FY2018 Arizona state budget was dropped this week. On Tuesday, just before 5 p.m. both the Republican and Democratic Appropriations Committees heard the JLBC review of the Republican budget.  Thus begins the mysterious whirlwind of the Arizona budget finalization process, which is scheduled to end in the wee hours of Friday morning.

As a citizen, I always scratched my head as to why the Arizona budget is always passed in the middle of the night. Obviously, the suspicion is that there is something the majority party wants to pass, and it doesn’t want you to know or to be there when it happens. There’s an element of that, for sure, because we have seen some scary stuff passed in the middle of the night by Republicans– like the voter suppression omnibus bill and blowing the doors off of campaign finance by dramatically boosting campaign limits. The majority party schedules the third day of the budget process just after midnight because they don’t want their members to go home between the debates in the Committee of the Whole (COW) and the 3rd Reading vote. If members go home, someone could say, “What are you thinking?” and change votes.

Check out the budgetary known knowns, known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns below.

Continue reading Queue the Spooky Organ Music: It’s Budget Time in the #AZLeg (video)