Category Archives: Arizona State Legislature

Fate of Arizona’s Medicaid expansion now in the hands of the AZ Supreme Court

The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday heard oral arguments on Republican lawmakers’ challenge of a hospital assessment that funds the state’s Medicaid expansion. Fate of GOP’s challenge to Medicaid expansion now in hands of the Arizona Supreme Court:

An attorney for three dozen current and former lawmakers argued that the hospital assessment is a tax that requires a two-thirds legislative majority to enact. The assessment was narrowly approved by the Legislature in 2013.

The lawsuit was rejected by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge in 2015, and the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld that decision in March.

The appellate court in its opinion (.pdf) said the law imposed an assessment that is exempt from the requirement that any act by lawmakers increasing state revenues, such a tax hike, must get a two-thirds vote in the Legislature [the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” amendment, Prop. 108 (1992)].

The “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute attorney representing the lawmakers, pressed ahead with an argument before the seven-member Arizona Supreme Court that the assessment is a tax that required the vote of a two-thirds majority of the Legislature under Proposition 108, which was passed by voters in 1992.

“It is clear under Proposition 108, a supermajority is needed for the Legislature to authorize what they did here,” said Christina Sandefur, a Goldwater Institute attorney who represented the lawmakers. “That is what the voters wanted. They wanted the supermajority to apply any time the Legislature acts to raise revenue.”

Timothy Berg, an attorney representing Arizona and the state’s Medicaid program, said the voter-approved initiative included an exception that allows fees and assessments imposed by state agencies.

Berg argued that voters passed Proposition 108 with the intent of limiting the Legislature’s ability to raise taxes with a simple majority, not restrict fee increases that are a routine part of state government.

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Healthcare Forum: We Want to Hear Your Stories

 

Banner University Medical Center

High-tech medical care at Banner University Medical Center

For the past 30 years, my career has focused on health promotion, disease prevention, behavioral research, and communications. I have seen, photographed, and written about the good, the bad and the ugly parts of our country’s healthcare “system”.

I saw the rise of HMOs (health maintenance organizations) in the 1980s. I cheered the Clintons for at least trying to fix the overly complicated mess in the early 1990s. I saw costs going up every year and service going down. I saw a health insurance system that was creaking under the weight of its own complexity, while big insurance and big pharma collected huge profits. As managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine, I stood proudly by the Editor-in-Chief when he and the Editorial Board called for Medicare for All on multiple occasions.

Along the way, I have heard stories about huge medical bills, uncompensated hospital care, outrageously expensive drugs, limited or delayed access to medical care, premature death and disease, medical bankruptcy, and the medical consequences of poverty.

Now, as a member of the Arizona House and the ranking Democrat on the Health Committee, I want to hear your stories.

Do you have concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and Kids Care? Is the cost of medical care or prescription drugs a worry for your family? How would dramatic cuts to these programs impact you? Come to the 200 Stories: Tucson Healthcare Forum on Oct 29.

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Kansas is a cautionary tale for Arizona, and America

In 2012, Koch-bot governor Sam Brownback led a radical Tea-Publican legislature to enact the “Kansas experiment” out of blind faith in trickle-down economics. They enacted “a tax cut that eliminated state income taxes entirely for pass-through entities — such as sole proprietorships and limited liability partnerships — which are taxed at the owner’s individual income tax rate. The law also lowered individual income tax rates, cutting the top rate to 4.9 percent from 6.4 percent.” Kansas Tried a Tax Plan Similar to Trump’s. It Failed.

The tax package reduced state revenue by nearly $700 million a year, a drop of about 8 percent, from 2013 through 2016, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, forcing officials to shorten school calendars, delay highway repairs and reduce aid to the poor. Research suggests the package did not stimulate the economy, certainly not enough to pay for the tax cut. This year, legislators passed a bill to largely rescind the law, saying it had not worked as intended.

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[C]ongressional Republicans and President Trump are trying to take the experiment with pass-through preferences national, beyond Wichita and Topeka to cities with residents who measure incomes in seven, eight or nine figures.

The Republican tax rewrite unveiled this month aims to jump-start economic growth in part by establishing a 25 percent tax rate on small businesses and other firms that operate as pass-through entities, a cut from the top rate of 39.6 percent that such business owners pay now.

But the abandoned experiment in Kansas points to how a carve-out intended to help raise growth and create jobs instead created an incentive for residents, particularly high earners, to avoid paying state income taxes by changing how they got paid.

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So how’s that trickle-down working out for Arizona?

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports that Arizona Legislature’s budget analysts predict 2018 shortfall:

The Arizona Legislature’s budget analysts last Thursday predicted a budget shortfall that could top $100 million in the current and coming year as the impact of corporate tax cuts continues to overwhelm increases in sales, insurance premium and personal income tax collections.

Whaaa? You mean tax cuts don’t pay for themselves and are revenue neutral? (sarcasm).

Chief budget analyst Richard Stavneak told economists and state officials who make up the Legislature’s Finance Advisory Committee that the shortfall will hit $104 million. That’s out of an expected $10 billion in spending for the budget year that begins next July 1. A panel of state lawmakers also attended the meeting.

Excluded from that projection is $90 million in current spending that is labeled one-time but appears to be an ongoing commitment by the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey, Stavneak said. That puts the expected shortfall next year close to $200 million if that spending isn’t cut. The revenue picture could also brighten, but signals are mixed, he said.

Phased-in corporate tax cuts enacted under former Gov. Jan Brewer in 2011 have cut more than $600 million in yearly revenue since 2014. Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, said it may be time to revisit the corporate tax cuts and predicted a budget battle next year.

“It’s going to be a free-for-all. We’re back to the cutting, I don’t see any other way,” Shooter said. “It’s going to come down to who’s going to bleed the least, what’s going to be the least painful, I guess.”

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200 Stories: Tucson Healthcare Forum, Oct 29

200 Stories: Tucson Healthcare Forum

Do you have concerns about the Affordable Care Act and repeal attempts; about the future of Medicare and Medicaid; or about access to care or the cost of drugs?

Whether you are a patient or a provider, we want to hear your medical and health insurance stories. The LD9 and LD10 Legislators are holding an open mic forum in which we listen, you talk, and we all learn.

This is a free educational community event for residents of Pima County. It’s about listening and learning from each other. Senators David Bradley and Steve Farley and Representatives Kirsten Engel, Randy Friese, and Pamela Powers Hannley have confirmed their attendance. (Rep. Todd Clodfelter was invited but has a scheduling conflict.)

In the news, we hear what politicians and big corporations think should be done with our country’s overly complicated and extremely expensive health care system. At this event, the people of Southern Arizona will have an opportunity to tell us their stories and help shape future policy.

Mark your calendars for October 29, 2017. The event will be held 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, 4831 E. 22nd St.

Please take a few minutes to register with EventBrite by clicking here. We want to make sure we have enough seats.

Watch Facebook and other social media for updates.

Rep. Powers Hannley: 2017 Legislative Report Card (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers HannleyIn 2016, I ran for the Arizona House on a platform of economic reform, equality, and tackling the opioid epidemic. I stood up to big-money politics and ran as a Clean Elections candidate, despite much advice to take the money and run.

I am honored that you elected me on Nov. 8, 2016. This year in the Legislature, I fought for fairness and stood up for your rights with my voice, my votes, and my bills.

I am running for re-election in 2018. As a Clean Elections candidate, I have pledged not to take big-money donations from special interests. This is my report card to you, the voters of Legislative District 9. It has been an honor to serve you.

Economic Reform & Public Banking 

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