#COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

Phoenix with no traffic

Inhabitants of Earth are nearly six months into the most disruptive year of our lives, thanks to the novel Coronavirus. The United States was slow to react to the pandemic that had already spread across Asia and Europe and killed thousands. Early denial by leaders in multiple countries– like the US, Brazil, Russia, India, and the UK– has proven deadly for the general population.

As of today, June 14, 2020, there  have been 7,767,336 cases and 429,555 deaths worldwide. Although the US has 4.25% of the world’s population, we have close to 30% of the cases (2,074,526) and 30% of the deaths (115,436).

Those of us who are not essential workers, sheltered in place for roughly two months as states declared public health emergencies to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the virus. We stopped driving and flying. Traffic disappeared — even in Phoenix. Air pollution cleared. We could hear the birds sing. We started walking our dogs regularly. We rediscovered or learned new skills like cooking and sewing and took on home projects that had waited for months or years due to lack of time in our previously harried schedules. Gardeners sprouted all over Tucson, as evidenced by the almost continuous activity on the Tucson Backyard Gardeners Facebook Group. We started making COVID19 masks and giving them away to friends and strangers, alike.  We went to more online meetings than we had ever imagined… and even went to church online… and in most cases it worked just fine. With a dearth of COVID19 information from the government and loads of misinformation on the Internet, we turned to moderated groups like Fear > Facts Tucson Coronavirus Facebook Group for trusted updates. We were separate, but we built community in different ways to stay connected. Did we really need all of the meetings … the events … the driving … the flying … the stress … the missed evenings with family?

Continue reading #COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

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)