by Jim Nintzel
We've been amiss in not covering the slowly unfolding session at the Arizona Legislature, but we're hoping to get back on track by next week.
In the meantime, here's the latest dispatch from Rep. Steve Farley, a Democrat who represents midtown Tucson. Our favorite part is a quote from Sen. Sylvia Allen of Snowflake: "We've got to preach to people to save up for their colonoscopy, to save up for their welfare visits, to put some money back into their lives and their own responsibilities for healthcare."
Howdy, Friends O'Farley…
First, I want to wish a huge Happy 21st Birthday to Daniel Hernandez, my campaign manager who is now rightfully celebrated around the world as the humble hero who helped to save Gabby Giffords' life.
If you are watching the State of the Union tonight, you will see that Daniel is spending his birthday sitting in the First Lady's box during what will surely be another emotional event for all of us. Support continues to pour in from everywhere for Tucson as we continue to recover. Just this week I received a wonderful package of drawings from a Mormon Sunday-school class of five-year-olds in Mesa sending their love to all of us.
I hear that, in addition to being recognized, Daniel will be hearing
the President talk tonight about how we use our new spirit of civility born of tragedy to create jobs and move our economy forward. He will talk about the need to strengthen our education system at all levels and come together to invest in policies that strengthen us as a nation so that we can reclaim our greatness.
I can only hope that some of the folks in charge of Arizona's state government will listen and act accordingly. Unfortunately, as I laid out last week, the Governor's budget simply weakens our state further.
Jan Brewer's bleak vision for Arizona's future has been embraced by many members of the majority. Here's a particularly harsh quote from a floor speech by Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), as she pledged her support for the Governor's proposal to toss 280,000 people in poverty (including 5,200 seriously mentally ill people) off their healthcare:
"We've got to preach to people to save up for their colonoscopy, to save up for their welfare visits, to put some money back into their lives and their own responsibilities for healthcare."
Perhaps Sen. Allen believes that people who have been out of work for the last two years or foreclosed upon have large sums of money they are hoarding or wasting on luxuries like food and shelter. But you and I know that is not true.
It's time all of our leaders stop scapegoating Arizonans in need and start working to make sure there are fewer Arizonans in need. Throwing these people off healthcare not only hurts them, it hurts all of us. A newly updated study from ASU and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce projects that this move will eliminate 48,000 private sector jobs.
How about creating new jobs for a change? Democrats have many bills that would do just that. Here's just one that I am working on in collaboration with the Arizona Chapter Associated General Contractors and the League of Cities and Towns. I plan to introduce it late next week.
The bill will allow for the creation of municipal improvement districts anywhere in the state to build transportation projects, water, sewer and renewable electric systems, public safety facilities, and other major improvements. These projects would be paid for by bonding against the future increase in property taxes produced by increased property values within the district, resulting from the improvements.
In other words, we can fix our infrastructure, improve our communities, and create thousands of good construction jobs all over the state without raising existing taxes to pay for them. All this has rock-solid accountability measures built in, and the districts must be approved by the counties and school districts in the area and then go to a vote of the people. I will keep you posted as this bill continues along its journey.
I am also seeking to end the infamous sales tax exemption on four-inch pipes. As loyal Farley Report readers can recite by heart, you currently pay sales tax on 2" pipes and 3" pipes, but not on 4" pipes. We simply can't afford to give away the $18 million a year to a large corporation whose high-priced lobbyist scored this perk a few decades ago.
This bill is already starting a larger discussion about sales tax exemptions and whether they are doing more harm than good. Conservative Republicans are starting to understand that our overall sales tax rate is much higher than it should be because we leak out so much money from these corporate loopholes to special interests. This is the ultimate example of "government picking winners and losers", a concept that most Republicans say they despise.
Some exemptions are fair, many are not. I am not recommending that we tax groceries or medical services or wholesale sales. But why can't we tax "Sales of Food or Drink Consumed on the Premises of a Jail or Prison" or "New Machinery and Equipment Used for Commercial Production of Agricultural, Horticultural, Viticultural and Floricultural Crops" or "Digital Television Machinery and Equipment Purchases for Compliance with the Telecommunications Act of 1996" or "Sales of Wireless Telecommunication Equipment as an Inducement to Enter into or Continue a Contract for Telecommunication Services or Sales Commissions Received"?
Just watch. Now that I wrote this, tomorrow I will probably be inundated with lobbyists for the industries who scored those loopholes. That's been the problem up to now. But it's time to have the courage to say that our tax code needs to be fair to all of us, not just to the people who can afford lobbyists.
WIth that in mind, for all you wonks out there, here is the document you have been waiting for. This link will take you to a fascinating (I guess that says something about what I find interesting!) PDF file from the Arizona Department of Revenue. It lists all the revenues coming to the state in the form of taxes, and revenue not coming to the state in the form of credits and exemptions. Feel free to check out the whole thing, but I want to direct your attention to Pages 97-122, which list all the sales tax exemptions.
If you are really into this, email me back your top