#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 HB2113: Seriously? Tax Cuts for the Rich? (video)

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley

On Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, in the committee of the whole, also known as COW, we debated HB 2113. This bill allows people to reduce their taxable income through charitable donations because it indexes the percent allowable to inflation. The current allowable amount is 25% of charitable donations (if you itemize your deductions, which almost no one does since the standard deduction was doubled.) At the current 25% rate, this tax cut, passed in 2019, took $24 million out of the general fund. This bill allows automatic annual inflation-based increases, with no sunset date, no cap, little accountability and “no guard rails”, as Rep. Mitzi Epstein pointed out in debate.

HB2113 is an income tax break for the richest Arizonans. You’ll remember that the Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated many income tax deductions including the charitable deduction and at the same time doubled the standard deduction. This simplification of the tax code is something people have been clamoring for for years. Doubling the standard deduction is the primary reason why most Americans no longer itemize their taxes. To fund business tax cuts in TCJA, many individual tax deductions were eliminated and folded into the standard deduction.

In TCJA, the charitable tax deduction moratorium lasts for only five years. Epstein and I tried to add a sunset date to the Arizona charitable tax credit deduction to align it with the TCJA, but that amendment was defeated. With the 2019 bill and this 2021 bill, Arizona Republicans are not only cementing the charitable tax deduction for the wealthy, they are making it ever increasing by indexing it to inflation and not allowing it to ever decrease, regardless of the economy. That is a Sweetheart Deal!

Continue reading RTS Alert HB2113: Seriously? Tax Cuts for the Rich? (video)

Emergency Tourism Dollars Won’t Overcome #AZ’s Bad Reputation (video)

Arizona House
The Commerce Committee had a rousing debate over HB 2161 this week. It allows municipalities and counties to create multiple quasi-governmental taxing authorities (called marketing authorities) across the state.
The concept behind 2161 is that local governments can designate a specific geographic area to be within the marketing authority with the consent from 67% of the lodging establishments within the boundaries. Hotels and other lodging establishments inside the marketing authority would agree to add a bed tax (or in some cases an additional bed tax) to the per night room rate. Proceeds from the new tax from the multiple marketing authorities across the state would be sent to the Department of Revenue, who would process the new tax funds, and, in turn, return the bed tax money to the local governments who would funnel the money to the Board of Directors for the marketing authority and the local tourism bureau to be used for advertising the area. I am against this bill for multiple reasons:
  1. I don’t think the state should abdicate taxing authority to quasi-governmental authorities because they are not accountable to the taxpayers.
  2. This is a tax on consumers, but consumers will get no direct benefit (unless they want a housekeeping or wait staff job in the future).
  3. This bill creates more bureaucracy locally and at the state level. Proponents say this won’t cost the state any money. I disagree. It will enable creation of an unknown number of new taxing districts with different tax rates which all send funds to DOR for processing. DOR funnels the money back to local governments and to the local tourism bureaus to be used for advertising. That process is not free. It will obviously require significant personal time, new procedures, database augmentation for the new taxes, and more.
During the pandemic, there have been multiple news stories about states (like Arizona) and countries (like Italy and Spain) that have lost significant revenue during the pandemic because they have historically relied upon tourism and fees levied on tourists as primary sources of income. The travel and tourism industry — along with conventions and air travel — have been hard hit by COVID. Conventions, concerts, music festivals and other big events have been canceled. Besides canceled events, people aren’t traveling for multiple reasons: they are sick; a family member or friend is sick or has died of COVID; they’re afraid they or family members will become sick or die; they’re afraid to be in enclosed, non-social-distancing spaces, including airplanes, trains or abuses; they’re afraid to spend the night in a motel room or go in public restroom; they don’t trust the government to keep them safe (obviously a good reason with 400,000+ dead); or they are at high risk for COVID and don’t go anywhere.
Also … let’s not forget the biggest reasons why tourists and conventioneers might choose to go elsewhere. Arizona has a habit of creating negative press for itself. For example:
  1. Arizona has bungled the pandemic. Arizona has been a COVID hot spot for weeks and has been intermittently worst in the nation multiple times in the past year.
  2. Since the Jan. 6 US Capitol Insurrection, Arizona is also known as the home of the infamous organic-food-loving Q Shaman and multiple insurrectionist elected officials.
  3. The Arizona Legislature continues to waste time on inappropriate and radical legislation such as Rep. Walt Blackman’s “homicide by abortion” bill (HB2650) and Rep. Shawnna Bolick’s HB2720 which creates layers of unnecessary bureaucracy, has voter privacy concerns, and hands the presidential election decision to the Arizona Legislature. (What could go wrong?)
  4. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show dubbed Arizona is the “Meth Lab of Democracy”. This references the founding fathers’ idea that the states would be “laboratories for a democracy” and would test new ideas. If enough states adopted those novel ideas, the federal government would adopt them for all states. As the Meth Lab of Democracy, Arizona is known for our racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-science laws.
Not a good look.
All of the slick ads about cowboys, sunsets, warm weather, and the Grand Canyon will not overcome our bad reputation. The goal of the marketing authorities is to bolster the tourism industry and subsequently the state’s economy. Arizona has a lot of self-inflicted marketing wounds that we have to overcome before people are going to come here post Covid.
The tourism industry needs to rethink itself for the post Covid world. Travel, tourism, conventions and air travel will not be the same as they were before. The sooner we realize that and start innovating and planning for it, the better off we will be. We should cast aside the old paradigms.
If you are on RTS, vote “no” on HB2161, HB2650, and HB2720. Let’s focus on helping Arizona’s survive the pandemic physically and financially. That should be our first priority in the legislature.

Today’s Update Is about Gratitude (video)

Arizona House women

Today’s video is about gratitude. It is a tribute to the women representatives who became my friends in the past four years but have now moved on to other career adventures or to the Senate.

Serving in the Legislature is a tough job. It’s good to have colleagues who have your back and who are willing to lend an ear. Thank you to former Reps. Isela Blanc, Gerae Peten, Winona Benally, Kirsten Engel (now a Senator) and Rosanna Rodriguez Gabaldon (now a Senator). Blanc, Peten, Benally and Engel were four of the eight “Feisty Freshmen” from 2017. Only four of us are still in the House: Reps. Kelli Butler, Mitzi Epstein, Athena Salman and me.

Many of us were elected in 2016 because we fully utilized social media and communicated with constituents regularly. In the House, we kept talking and Tweeting. The Republican men did everything they could think of to shut us up, but they were never successful.

We had strength in our solidarity and our speaking skills and our passion. Thank you for being there.

This video was originally published on Facebook on January 14, 2021.

Thank You, LD9! I’m Proud to Serve You for Another Term (video)

LD9 election results for 2020

Thank you so much, LD9 voters, for making me the top vote getter in the 2020 Primary Election and the 2020 General Election. I particularly want to thank my grassroots volunteers who worked tirelessly to help me win re-election. 

It was an extremely difficult year for humankind, but you persevered to help many Democrats win– including the LD9 team of Senator Victoria Steele, Rep. Randy Friese and me. Oh, yes, and Joe Biden!

You are my Power Team.

LD9 volunteers
Rep. Randy Friese and Pam Powers Hannley with volunteers in 2020.

We traveled 2020’s rough and bumpy roads together. We not only faced the pandemic together, we faced a Republican opponent with more than three times as much money and all of the wealthy donors, television commercials, robocalls, slick mailers, and giant signs that accompany big-money politics.

I was his target, and you helped me beat him. The final count is PPH 64,781, Rep. Randy Friese 64,772 and Brendan Lyons 48,026.  OK, I beat Friese by only nine votes, but I beat Lyons by 17,755 votes.

Continue reading Thank You, LD9! I’m Proud to Serve You for Another Term (video)

Too Many Arizonans Suffer from Food, Housing & Economic Insecurity (video)

economic insecurity

Even before COVID19, too many Arizonans were living with food, housing and economic insecurity. Under failed Republican leadership at the state and federal levels, the pandemic rages on and increases.

For the first time in 50 years, Arizona voters have the opportunity to shift the balance of power in the Arizona Legislature and hand the leadership to the Democrats.

Hmmm … 50 years of Republican control. Is that we are #50 in so many health and wellness categories — like adverse childhood experiences?

I grew up in Amherst, Ohio, a small town on the banks of Lake Erie. Although we lived modestly in a tiny house, we always food on the table and a roof over our heads.

Both of my parents worked in unionized factories, and my Dad was a member of the United Steel Workers. My family always had union benefits like full time work, decent wages, health insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacation, pensions, and affordable college for my brother and me.

Thousands of Arizona children don’t have these basic benefits that I grew up with.

Continue reading Too Many Arizonans Suffer from Food, Housing & Economic Insecurity (video)