Let’s talk government transparency.
Lucky for me my committees, so far, have not been totally nuts with radical right wing bills like some of the other committees this year. Yes, we have heard some tax giveaways in both Commerce and Ways and Means but not the extreme ideological social engineering and voter suppression bills that are in other committees.
The Feb.3 Ways and Means Committee agenda included only one bill HB2391, sponsored by Rep. Steve Kaiser, one of the freshmen Republicans. This is a property tax and county government transparency bill from ATRA (Arizona Tax Research Association). Sean McCarthy from ATRA said that all of the counties report their property taxes in different ways. (Not surprising.) HB2391 says that the Department of Revenue (DOR) should design a “worksheet” for the counties to use worksheet and make the data available. I don’t think this goes far enough. I know many Tucsonans who are digging through PDFs and memos on governmental websites to try to determine how their taxes are being spent.
I agree with the push for governmental transparency and standardization in reporting, but I would take this a couple step further. I think these worksheets should be available on the county websites and on the DOR website in an easy-to-find location, and the data should be downloadable in Excel. This allows people — including data nerds, economists, grad students, and interested citizens — to look at the data and analyze it themselves. This is true transparency and accountability, in my opinion.
Many governmental websites are data rich and information poor. There are many numbers but very little context or explanation. For example, my bill HB 2255 is a transparency and accountability bill regarding the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA). I have done a lot of digging around in PDFs on the ACA website to determine the effectiveness of the business incentives that the ACA has been doling out.
Continue reading RTS Alert HB2391 & HB2255: Transparency in Government. Yes! (video)
Usually, I’m telling you about bad bills and encouraging you to give them a thumbs down on the Request to Speak (RTS) system.￼
Today I am featuring for good bills that passed unanimously out of the commerce committee. Yes, this happens when the bills are moderate and useful to the general public.
HB2396 outlines a procedure where dating websites can identify predators￼ and notify other users who have been contacted by the bad actor. Dating websites are infamous for old pictures and lies about age, weight, and marital status. ￼That sort of personal spin will remain. This bill goes after fraudsters who whew people on dating websites and extort money from them. According to Rep. Regina Cobb, the bill sponsor, Arizona is lost $8 million to this type of fraud in 2018 alone.￼
Continue reading RTS Alert for 4 Good Bills (video)
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)
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:
- I don’t think the state should abdicate taxing authority to quasi-governmental authorities because they are not accountable to the taxpayers.
- 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).
- 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.￼
Continue reading Emergency Tourism Dollars Won’t Overcome #AZ’s Bad Reputation (video)