#AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

COVID19 computer models

Amid the nationwide controversy regarding when it is safe for states to open up their economies during a pandemic, the Arizona House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee will meet to hear presentations from open up experts. What about hearing from the public health experts, too?

The HHS meeting will be Thursday, May 14 at 1 p.m. The meeting was a total surprise to the Democrats on HHS. Why is this a surprise? Because the House has been in adjournment, with committee hearings paused, since March 23.

The agenda just popped into our inboxes on Tuesday and in the past 24 hours additional speakers have been added. The meeting is a collection of presentations by out-of-state experts who support opening up Arizona’s economy: Aaron Ginn, who is the co-founder of the Lincoln Network; Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford Health Policy), who has developed an antibody test, conducted research on the spread of COVID19 in the community and death rates, and whose research methods have been critized; Dr. Neeraj Sood (USC Sol Price School of Public Policy), who also did research on COVID19 community spread and death rates and whose results were released prematurely and without his knowledgeLanhee J. Chen (Hoover Institute and Stanford University School of Public Policy), a FOX commentator and former Romney advisor, who has been critical of WHO and supports bring college students back to campus; Avik Roy, who is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and who advocates for young people going back to work because mostly old people will die from COVID19; Dr. Joel W. Hay (USC Shaeffer Center), whose Twitter feed rails against state economic lock downs and cites Sweden (who has a higher death toll than neighboring countries) and sparsely populated South Dakota as success stories because they didn’t lock down their economies to stop the spread.

HHS Dems sent a letter to HHS Chair Nancy Barto asking to hear from some Arizona experts, rather than just listen to people from California tell us what we should be doing. (What happened to “don’t California my Arizona?”) For example, the HHS Democrats also would like to hear from these Arizona experts and get their thoughts on what the others have to say: Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS); Will Humble, former ADHS director and current executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association; Dr. Dan Derksen, from the Rural Health Office; and Dr. Tim Lant, from Arizona’s university-based COVID19 modeling team.

Continue reading #AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

#COVID19 Shows #AZ that Over Reliance on Sales Tax Is Bad Policy (video)

Republicans thanks for the poverty

Since it’s Wednesday, I am wearing red, and today’s video about public education funding.

Yesterday, I was filling out an endorsement questionnaire, and one of the questions was: do you support raising sales taxes to pay for public education?

This question is so January 2020. When we were in session, there was much discussion about extending Prop 301 (Governor Jan Brewer’s “temporary sales tax to save public education”) and raising it to one cent.

This is April 29, 2020. The novel Coronavirus is running rampant throughout the United States and throughout the state of Arizona. We are seeing firsthand what a bad idea it is to balance the state budget on the backs of consumers. Arizona has high sales taxes and low corporate taxes compared to other states. With the shelter in place order and high unemployment, sales and sales taxes are down across the board. Consequently, state and local revenues are down across the board.

Arizona has one of the most volatile state budgets in the country because if it’s over reliance on sales tax– coupled with low corporate income taxes, billions of dollars in corporate tax giveaways, and lack of a state property tax. When regular folks don’t have cash to spend, the whole state suffers because the government is relying on YOU to buy stuff and pay tax on those sales. Corporate Arizona… not so much… besides low corporate income taxes, they regularly ask for and get TPT (sales tax) breaks from the Arizona Legislature. Remember this story from the beginning of session: Microsoft Wants a Sales Tax Break Because ‘Electricity Is Too Expensive in Arizona’ (video).

Continue reading #COVID19 Shows #AZ that Over Reliance on Sales Tax Is Bad Policy (video)

#AZLeg, Inquiring Minds What to Know: Are We Done Yet? (video)

Arizona House

Many of you have recently asked me what the Legislature is up to. After all, we haven’t been at the capital since March 23.

Today’s video is meant to answer the question: Are you done or what?

OK. We’re not done for the year. On March 23, the Legislature passed a “skinny budget” with the Senate bipartisan plan that included $50 million to fight the Coronavirus. After that, we voted to adjourn until April 13 (or until needed or it’s safe). Legislators and their assistants are all working remotely.

There is a lot of speculation about the Legislature, now that President has given up on his prediction that everything will be back to normal by  Easter and is promoting staying at home through the month of April. The Legislature could vote remotely or come back with a skeleton crew and sine die (end for the year) or extend the adjournment.

The Capital Times is reporting that if we did indeed sine die now, only about 60 bills will have passed and been signed into law this year. Traditionally, the Legislature passes more than 300 bills a year. (More than 95 percent of these bills are Republican bills, even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Legislature.) As a long-time Arizona voter, I remember asking myself how in the world can they could pass so many bills every year, particularly when the Republicans promote themselves as party of small government, and they’ve been in charge for decades.

Now, as a two-term Democratic representative, I know that the vast majority of the new laws passed by Arizona Republicans are totally unnecessary and often harmful to segments of Arizona’s  population. They are NOT the party of small government, obviously,

I relish the idea of passing ~60 bills in 2020, rather than 300. Legislation to enable pet projects, pet vendettas and sweetheart tax deals for utilities and multinational corporations seem completely irrelevant and wrong-headed during a mismanaged public health crisis. 

It would be a great thing for the citizens of Arizona if the Legislature passed fewer bills. In 2020, Legislators proposed a record number of bills, more than 1700. If we end the session now, hundreds of bad bills that would have passed in a normal year will be dead! This includes ~20 voter suppression bills; >18 tax giveaways that could total a $1 billion per year of lost future revenue; a bill that allows pawn brokers to become payday lenders; a bill that criminalizes people from standing on the median; a bill that forces us to buy license plates more often just so 3M can sell the state of Arizona more reflective coating, the reefer madness ballot initiative, more vanity license plates; several one-off Republican pet projects related to education (other than public education, of course); multiple attacks on Clean Elections, the Citizens Initiative, representative government, local control, and professional credentials, and whatever else is on the Republican to-do list from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona Tax Research Association, the Chamber of Commerce or President Trump. 

It is completely unrealistic that April 13 would be a safe return date to the capital. I think we should sine die by remote vote. We could come up with a bipartisan, mutually agreed upon short list of bills that deserve to pass. Let’s identify 10 bipartisan bills (other than Coronavirus response bills) that deserve to pass– including earned release credits, the grandparent stipend, more money for caregivers in the ALTCS system, and increased district direct assistance for schools. All the bad bills would die. We would leave a few hundred million dollars sitting on the table (because the tax giveaways wouldn’t pass).

With so little commerce going on right now because of the Coronavirus, there is little sales tax being collected. Our state runs on sales tax. We’re going to need those extra funds in the coming months, along with the billion dollars that we have in our rainy day fund.

The Legislature can always come back for a special session.

#AZHouse Republicans Push ‘Skinny’ Budget with Little Attention to #Coronavirus (video)

Rep. Warren Petersen

I have had two phone meetings already this morning [March 19, 2020] about the Democratic response to the novel Coronavirus on the state and federal level.

The first call was with House Dems, and we discussed our budget amendments that address the Coronavirus crisis. The second call was with Senator Kirsten Sinema, who outlined what the Congress is doing. She strongly emphasized that we lean on Governor Doug Ducey and Legislative Republicans to take the crisis and the potential loss of life seriously.

Currently, House Republicans plan to push the FY21 budget through with no Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan attached.

I recorded this video just a few minutes ago as I wait to be joined in to the Arizona House Floor debate on the budget.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Push ‘Skinny’ Budget with Little Attention to #Coronavirus (video)

More Transparency in Commerce Authority Tax Giveaway Deals Is Needed (video)

UA College of Medicine

Today’s video is about HB2409, small business investment tax credit extension. This is also known as the Angel Investor Tax Credit. In the big scheme of tax giveaways in the state of Arizona, this one is sort of small potatoes dollar wise, but I still have issues. It is an extension if $2.5 million per year tax credit for 10 years. The angel tax credits are for “qualified investors,” people who are licensed, trained, and smart enough to play the stock market and make otherwise risky investments wisely because of their expertise. [My layman’s definition.] 

I have attended several Bioscience Roadmap events where they showcase research and new discoveries from the universities that are … just …about… ready for market. What they need is venture capital to get the new drug discovery or the next medical device from our universities to production to market.

I am very familiar with this topic because ever since I started my own small business in 1986, I have been writing about or working in public health and medical research. In fact, the first Bioscience Roadmap event that I attended featured Dr. Gene Gerner, Dr. Tom Grogan and the story of how their research at the Arizona Cancer Center blossomed into huge NCI research grants, new drugs, and successful UA spinoff businesses. I knew them, wrote about their research, and photographed them when I worked in the communication office at the cancer center.

My point is that I value scientific research and believe that research jobs (and related jobs that come with big grants) are some of the best jobs in our state. One of the reasons that I don’t support the angel investment tax credit is that I found out that only 30% of the funds go to businesses that spinoff from our research universities. Also, there is a $10 million ceiling to qualify as a “small start-up business” (who is eligible to receive funds from angel investors). If your business has $9 million in assets, is it really as “small business start-up”? 

Continue reading More Transparency in Commerce Authority Tax Giveaway Deals Is Needed (video)

#HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)

Throughout last week as we debated multiple tax giveaways, I repeatedly asked, “Is $1 billion in new tax giveaways too much?”

In debate on Thursday, Rep. Mitzi Epstein and I showcased the 18 Republican bills that give away potentially $1 billion and revealed how little the bill sponsors actually know about the revenue losses that their proposals will create. (I say “potentially” because seven tax giveaway bills have an unknown cost. We shouldn’t be passing bills when we don’t know the economic impact!)

On Thursday, we were debating Rep. Bret Roberts’ HB2752, which was projected to be a $64 million hit to the general fund in FY21, $71 million in FY22, and $110 million in FY23. There was a floor amendment that said it change the calculations for the tax break. Roberts refused to answer a my question regarding how the calculations had changed and whether the cost was going to go up or down from the projected figures. It doesn’t necessarily work out well for the Republicans when they refuse to answer questions. Since he refused, I asked Epstein about this. The upshot is that the amendment made Roberts’ bill even worse and pushed it into the unknown cost column, bringing that total to eight tax breaks with an unknown cost.

Continue reading #HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)