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.
#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.
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”?
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.
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?)
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.)
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…
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 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.
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.
Last week in the Arizona Legislature was crossover week, which means bills passed by one house started to be heard by the other. The House began hearing Senate bills on Monday and vice versa. In advance of crossover week come two weeks of cramming as many bills into the pipeline as possible.
By mid-February, the House had passed the 200-bills-passed threshold and had two late nights during the week of February 20– 7 p.m. on Tuesday and 11:30 p.m. on Thursday (the deadline to hear House bills). If you want to hear some late-night speechifying, check out the debate on the Citizens Initiative— which the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce want to kill and the Democrats defended. (When you go to the video, the agenda of the debate appears below, so you can scroll in to the sections you want to view.)
There have definitely been some themes so far in this session. Besides the push for fingerprinting citizens, the jabs at environmental protection, and the elimination of oversight and transparency by cutting all citizen review boards, the big theme has been giving away tax revenue (AKA, tax cuts, tax credits, tax subtraction, tuition waivers, economic development or trickle down economics).
Ironically, on many of these giveaway bills fiscally conservative Republicans (who don’t like spending money) and the fiscally conservative Progressives (who don’t want to give away tax revenue as long as the schools are underfunded) voted together. In the past two weeks, there have been maybe as many as 10 bills where some combination of Progressives and Conservatives voted against spending money that we don’t have.
During this political season, we have heard a lot about too-big-to-fail banks, corporate greed, politicians on the take, bad trade deals, inequality and … starting a revolution to save the middle class.
Just over 100 years ago, at the dawn of the first American Progressive Era, the same conditions sparked a revolution which spread from North Dakota throughout the prairie states.
In the early 1900s, family farms were under attack. Railroad robber barons charged farmers exorbitant prices to ship their grain, and if the farmers fell behind on loan payments, Wall Street banks stepped in—not to save the farmers but to foreclose on them.
As one farm family after another lost its land, politicians, who were in the pocket of big money interests, accepted the lobbyists’ cash and stood idly by.
Discontent grew among the farmers. In 1915, failed flax farmer A.C. Townley and his friend Fred Wood sat down at Fred’s kitchen table and drew up a progressive agenda to help the people of North Dakota. This blueprint for reform included regulating railroads and controlling fees, organizing farming cooperatives, and creating a state bank, which would make investments for the common good, instead of foreclosing on family farms. This was the birth of the Nonpartisan League (NPL).
Townley attached a Nonpartisan League sign to his Model T and began traveling around North Dakota to recruit citizens to join the Nonpartisan League and fight for change. Charging $6 for dues, Townley organized farmers, intellectuals, writers and women to stand up against the banks and the railroads. Knowing that they were the underdogs in this fight against the power brokers of the Gilded Age, the members of the Nonpartisan League called themselves the “six buck suckers.” Their slogan was, “We’re too dumb to quit.” The NPL published regular newspaper and used poignant political cartoons to educate North Dakotans. They knew they were in a David and Goliath match. Farm families were losing their land, their homes, and their livelihoods. What more did they have to lose?
One weapon that the Nonpartisan League had on their side was the right to vote, which North Dakota extended to women before the rest of the country did. The League sponsored meetings, not just for the farmers but also for the farm wives. Farm wives led lives of drudgery and isolation. Ladies luncheons—with political discussion—were a welcome change from everyday farm life for these women. Regardless of party, the NPL backed candidates who pledged to work toward these common goals. Their pitch—particularly to the farm wives—was “vote for the family, not for the party.” The NPL encouraged people to vote for politicians who shared their values and who would work for the people, instead of working for corporations.
In 1916, the NPL ran a slate of candidates as Republicans. (This is when progressive reformers like Teddy Roosevelt were Republicans.) The NPL took the governorship and seats in the Legislature. After the 1918 election, the Nonpartisan League controlled the entire Legislature, one Congressional seat, and the Governorship. With organization, true grit, and the right to vote, the Nonpartisan League staged a revolution in North Dakota. As a result, the NPL-led Legislature passed multiple progressive reforms to help the people of North Dakota. Most notably, these progressives created the Bank of North Dakota, which got North Dakota out from under Wall Street’s thumb and built a robust economy that is a model today.