The latest bulletin from Rep. Steve Farley:
Howdy, Friends O'Farley…
It's been a quiet week in State Wobegon...
Actually, it has been anything but a quiet week. More legislators are declaring their intentions to run for more offices, committees are pumping out some really suspect bills, House Republicans are trotting out their corporate-bailout deficit-expansion package, teachers and historic neighborhoods are under attack, rumors of yet another Special Session are in the air, and the Republicans are still not willing to work with Democrats on budget solutions.
But there is some good news.
First, one of the best U.S. Transportation Secretaries we have ever had, Ray LaHood, put in to effect today a ban on driving while texting for all interstate truck and bus drivers. Violators will be fined $2,750, so our roads will be a little safer as of today. I will fill you in on our latest efforts to ban DWT in AZ in a couple of weeks.
Second, in even better news, the efforts of the payday lending industry to stave off their imminent demise have failed
in their current form. These predators, spreading out all over the capitol, have been trying to reverse the clear mandate of the voters and gain a new lease on life through legislation sponsored by House Republican Whip Andy Tobin, R-Paulden.
Yesterday in the House Banking and Insurance Committee, Tobin pulled his bill at the last minute when it became clear that all Democrats and even some Southern Arizona Republicans will not budge in their opposition to payday lenders.
The predators and their lobbyists are not yet completely defeated — they are now desperately shopping around concessions in their efforts to stay alive, so we must remain vigilant to assure that the stake goes through their heart as of June 30. I'll keep you posted on their ongoing attempts to make a comeback and will continue to push for their elimination.
Now on to the bad news.
The attack on Arizona teachers continues. HB2395, introduced by Rep. Lauren Hendrix (R-Mesa), is an attempt take away teachers' voices by eliminating their ability to voluntarily pay dues to the Arizona Education Association — which represents them at the Capitol — through payroll deduction. No other union or other association is included in the bill.
In fact, Rep. Hendrix seems to have no problem with voluntary payroll deductions in general. He co-sponsored a bill last year to allow voluntary payroll deductions for all employees who want to give money to the private school tuition tax credit. HB2395 seems to be all about silencing teachers in advance of the proposed $750 million in additional cuts to public education.
Luckily, a whole lot of teachers showed up to protest this afternoon at the hearing before the Government Committee, so the bill was held. But watch for it to move once again next week.
Meanwhile, the House Republicans are putting their Corporate Bailout Bill (HB2250) on a fast track. Yesterday, it was heard in my Ways & Means committee where Tom Chabin (D-Flagstaff) and I hammered away on its numerous flaws for more than three hours.
Speaker Kirk Adams presented his bill — which appears to be a random assortment of almost every half-baked idea (and some that are still raw dough) for corporate tax giveaways that has been tossed around for the last 20 years — and told us it was a "jobs package".
Here are a few lowlights:
—> Individual income taxes, most of which are paid by the rich, will be cut by 10%, adding at least another $400 million yearly to our deficit.
—> Companies can pay state taxes to themselves instead of to the state if they hire more people.
—> Corporate income taxes will be slashed by 28% — no strings attached.
—> Corporate property taxes will be lowered by 25%, paid for by dramatic increases in property taxes on homeowners, including retirees on fixed incomes and families struggling to avoid foreclosure.
—> There are no guarantees that most of these tax giveaways will create more jobs, or that the money will benefit Arizona companies. The savings can legally be spent on big bonuses for corporate executives based in Arkansas or Minnesota.
—> There is no distinction made on the quality of jobs created, so the tax breaks could go to payday lenders, not just to high-wage manufacturers.
—> It is unconstitutional on two grounds. It requires that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House sign off on contracts negotiated by the executive branch, violating separation of powers; and it gives money to companies without proving that the state received something of value in return, violating the "gift clause."
Even Senate President Bob Burns (R-Peoria) is lukewarm on the idea. He was quoted in an article by Howie Fischer as saying the bill may be premature. "You've got to stop the bleeding of the state right now," he said. "That's got to be the No. 1 priority," Burns continued. "And these other things are OK but we've got to focus on getting this budget squared away."
The Corporate Bailout Bill would instead blow a huge new hole in the deficit. We don't know how big a hole because the fiscal analysis has not yet been produced. And yet the majority refused our motion to hold the bill until we know the full costs. They went ahead and voted it out anyway.
This Thursday, the Corporate Bailout Bill will be the first of the session to be debated on the floor, and they may even third-read it right then. I would think that Arizona citizens would prefer that we get the deficit solved first — before we make it worse — but it's become clear that will only happen when Democrats are in charge. Which we aren't. Yet.