Category Archives: Budgets

Arizona’s mismanagement of public education

You may have been following this story over the past several weeks. Arizona allocated $85 million to wrong schools for special-education, low-income students:

Financial miscalculations by state education administrators have resulted in hundreds of Arizona schools missing out on tens of millions of federal dollars to serve students with special needs and those from low-income families.

According to an Arizona Republic analysis of data provided by the Arizona Department of Education, the state has misallocated $85 million over the past four years, giving some schools too much and some too little.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas last month publicly announced that the state erroneously allocated $56 million in federal Title I funds for low-income students. Last week, she sent a letter to schools notifying them of another problem: $30 million in federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) grants over the past three years allocated to the wrong schools.

For some underfunded schools, this may have required them to pull general classroom funds to cover expenses for special-needs services, and prevented them from hiring additional teachers or giving raises.

“The superintendent and (Arizona Department of Education Chief of Staff) Michael Bradley are not taking this lightly,” said department spokesman Stefan Swiat. “They are taking an audit found under a previous administration and they are tackling it.”

Swiat said the start of both problems dated back to prior superintendents, although the issue with special-education funds wasn’t fully assessed by federal officials until this September.

The disclosures from the Arizona Department of Education has fueled the argument from education leaders that they need more money to properly educate the state’s K-12 students.

Continue reading

If we want better, we must do better

You might have noticed I’ve not posted anything in quite some time. For those of you who don’t already know, I am managing my wife’s, Hollace Lyon, campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives in LD 11. That obviously, is taking up much of my bandwidth.

This morning though, while riding my spin cycle, I read an article on TucsonsSentinel.com from October 2016 titled “A decade after the recession, Arizona schools still suffer from budget cuts” that got me too spun up to keep spinning.

What really set me off was Senator John Kavanagh’s answer to why the AZ Legislature has cut $4.69 billion from our public schools since 2009. He claimed lawmakers didn’t neglect schools but actively worked to “give individual schools the most flexibility, because…I believe the districts themselves know the best choices for their students.”

Give me a freakin’ break! Why is it that Conservatives seem to love them some “choice” as long as that choice is not a woman’s. Let’s face it. The only “choice” the AZ Legislators give district schools, is a sort of “Sophie’s Choice”. For those who never saw this Meryl Streep movie set during Hitler’s Germany, Meryl played a mother to whom the Nazi’s gave a “choice” as to which of her children they would allow to live. Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly not my intention to minimize the horrors perpetrated on the Jewish people during the Holocaust, nor to equate the taking of a life with the underfunding of schools. But, when a school board is forced to make choices between the lesser of evils due to inadequate funding, this is not a real choice.

Okay, so this article was from a year ago…surely things have improved right? After all…we passed Prop. 123 and, the Governor “lavished” a 1.06% pay raise on teachers. Well…even after Prop. 123, (a 70% settlement of a debt already owed), state and local funding remained $1,300 less per pupil in FY 2016 than in 2008 when adjusted for inflation. As for teacher salaries, we still need an influx of $1 billion to get Arizona’s up to the U.S. median. And now, the Arizona School Boards Association, and others have sued the State of Arizona and the School Facilities Board for inadequate capital funding (cut by 85% since 2008).

None of this should surprise us. After all, the Arizona electorate continues to elect legislators that vote against our district schools and their students. The bottom line is that until we realize that doing what we’ve always done and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

We MUST accept that the ONLY way we are going to see things really change for the better with Arizona public education is if we elect more pro-public education candidates. As it turns out, I have three great ones for you to take a look at.

Hollace Lyon is a retired Air Force Colonel who served 26 years in the Communications career field, commanded twice, served in NATO, taught senior military leaders at Armed Forces Staff College, and retired out of the Pentagon where she helped set priorities for the Air Force budget. Since retirement, she has pursued several charitable endeavors and been involved in state-level politics at all levels, to include serving as campaign manager for a state Senate race and running for the House in 2014.

Hollace is obviously pro-public education (how could she not be living with me), but she is also focused on the need for voters to demand fiscal responsibility from our lawmakers. “Our lawmakers talk a lot about fiscal responsibility,” she says, “but they aren’t delivering it. Instead, they are busy diverting education tax dollars to private schools with no accountability or transparency, sweeping our highway maintenance funds away for corporate tax breaks and offering us the “opportunity” to double or even triple tax ourselves with measures like Propositions 416/417, and pulling monies out of the state employee pension trust fund requiring them to pay increased premiums to replenish the fund.” Hollace likes to point out that fiscal responsibility means more than cutting taxes or reducing programs and services. What it really means is that we…the taxpayer…get what we pay for. Learn more about Hollace at www.LyonforAZ.com where you can donate to her campaign, join her email list, or sign up to volunteer.

As the current Past-President of the Arizona School Boards Association, a member of the Peoria USD Governing Board and a former teacher, Kathy Knecht is another huge public education advocate. Aside from the fact that she will be a wonderful state Senator, her race is all the more important because she is running in LD 21 against Arizona’s Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sponsor of SB 1431 (the full expansion of vouchers), Senator Debbie Lesko (cue the hissing.) Learn more about Kathy and donate to her campaign at www.ElectKnecht.org. Let’s all help her give Debbie Lesko the boot!

Another fabulous candidate is Christine Marsh. Christine was Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year and an outspoken advocate for Arizona’s students. She is running in LD 26 for the Arizona Senate. Like many of our education professionals, Christine doesn’t do it for the money, (I teased her once that if she gets elected, she’ll actually make less than she does as a teacher), but rather, for the love of her students and the opportunity to make a real difference in their lives. Go to www.ChristinePorterMarsh.com to learn more about Christine and contribute to her campaign while you are there!

These races are critical because we actually have a chance in 2018 for real change. We only need to flip two Senate seats for parity in that chamber and only five in the House. The tea leaves say it’s possible, but it will take all of us to make it happen. You see, that’s the thing about a Democracy, it requires participation by the voters.

Not everyone can actually run for office, but EVERYONE can do something. All three of these candidates need money and almost everyone can donate something. Campaigns also need lots of volunteers to canvass, drive, make phone calls, have house parties, write letters to the editor, install signs and much more. No matter what your limitations or your skills, I guarantee campaigns have something you can do to help.

Finally, you need to be registered to vote and then actually vote. I can’t tell you how disheartening it was in 2014 to find out that not even half of the people in LD 11 with mail-in ballots, bothered to mail them in. RIDICULOUS! Joseph de Maistre, a visionary French counterrevolutionary, is credited with originally saying, “we get the government we deserve”. If we want better, we must do better. It is beyond time to step up. DO. IT. NOW!

Action Alert: Time to kill the evil GOP bastards’ ‘tax cuts for corporations and Putocrats’ bill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch released the revisions to the Senate tax plan Tuesday night. The new version sunsets most of the individual tax provisions after 2025, but makes the lower corporate tax rate permanent. Senate GOP changes tax bill to add Obamacare mandate repeal, make individual income cuts expire:

Senate Republicans announced that the individual tax cuts in the plan would be made temporary, expiring at the end of 2025 to comply with Senate rules limiting the impact of legislation on the long-term deficit [by making the individual income tax cuts temporary, Senate leaders are seeking to ensure that the bill does not violate the chamber’s Byrd Rule that prohibits legislation passed with fewer than 60 votes from raising the deficit after 10 years]. A corporate tax cut, reducing the rate from 35 to 20 percent, would be left permanent.

Oh, and it also repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

This would result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance, according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO has also projected that repealing the individual mandate would drive up insurance premiums for many Americans by roughly 10 percent.

As Axios.com says:

Remember “skinny repeal”? The repeal bill that all but three Senate Republicans voted for on the express condition that it not become law? Because, as Sen. Lindsey Graham put it, “the skinny bill as policy is a disaster”? The policy is basically the same this time around.

  • “Skinny repeal” would have done more than just end the individual mandate, but that was its biggest change, and the one that made it a “disaster” for insurance markets. Any vehicle that repeals the individual mandate, without a replacement, will cause premiums to rise and leave millions more Americans uninsured.
  • That said, none of the three senators who killed skinny repeal — Susan Collins, John McCain or Lisa Murkowski — has said repealing the individual mandate would be a deal-breaker for their tax votes.

Why now? The savings. Repealing the mandate would save the government roughly $340 billion over a decade, and Republicans need that money to help offset the lost revenues from $1.5 trillion in tax cuts.

  • As CBO reminded lawmakers yesterday, if the tax bill does end up adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit, automatic cuts would kick in — including $25 billion from Medicare. Some Republicans have also said they won’t vote for a tax bill that adds to the deficit, making the search for spending cuts especially important.

Continue reading

Action Alert: Sabotage of ‘Obamacare’ is back on the agenda in GOP tax cut bill

Tea-Publicans have a math problem with their tax cut bill to avoid the Senate cloture rule of 60 votes to close debate on their tax cut bill, so now the repeal of  the “Obamacare” individual mandate is back on the table to raise the revenue necessary to comply with the “Byrd Rule” in the Senate.

In short, Tea-Publicans are going to sabotage “Obamacare” in order to give tax cuts to corporations and Plutocrats.

Phil Mattingly at CNN explains in brief, Tax reform state of play: Republicans’ math problem:

House Republicans have a math problem, according to a separate JCT analysis circulated to members Tuesday night.

Due to changes made to the proposal in committee, most notably a significant change in a 20% excise tax for multinational companies, the bill is now about $74 billion over the $1.5 trillion target for deficits the committee is supposed to hit. And aides acknowledge more changes are coming that will likely add more to that.

So what do they do? Well, they need revenue.

Where can they find it? There’s a reason the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate hasn’t been taken off the table yet. As I’ve noted many times, House GOP leaders do not want to bring this into play and Senate Republicans are very unlikely to include it at any point, sources tell me.

Tara Golsham at Vox.com adds further, The Republican tax reform bill will live and die by this obscure Senate rule:

Republicans have a math problem.

The tax reform bill they are pushing through the Senate will live and die by a complicated rule — known as the “Byrd Rule,” a condition of the “budget reconciliation” process that allows Republicans to pass legislation with only 51 votes in the Senate. Because of how they set it up, Republicans’ tax bill can only increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion in the first 10 years, with no increase outside that window.

But as it stands, neither the House tax bill nor the Senate’s passes this test.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the House bill will increase the deficit by $1.7 trillion, and the initial analyses of the Senate bill show it is on track to increase the deficit outside the 10-year window — the plan’s largest impact on the deficit is by $216.7 billion in 2027.

Maneuvering around Senate rules is not new to congressional Republicans, who recently tried, and failed, to pass Obamacare repeal through budget reconciliation. They said tax reform would be easier.

* * *

It will all come down to what the Senate parliamentarian will permit. There’s no question that Republicans are desperately in search of budget gimmicks and rosy economic projections to make it all work — the question is if it will.

Which brings us to today.  Trump Again Wades Into Tax Debate, Suggesting Repeal of Obamacare Mandate:

As Republican lawmakers worked on Monday toward a delicate compromise on a $1.5 trillion tax cut, President Trump threw himself back into the discussion, suggesting that Republicans could reduce taxes even further by repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate that most people have health insurance.

After a long day of meetings in the Philippines, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to congratulate House and Senate Republicans for making progress on tax cut legislation during his 12-day trip through Asia. Then he pressed them to change course.

“Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further?” Mr. Trump said, referring to the health law’s mandate that most people have coverage or pay a penalty. “Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?”

Mr. Trump’s latest suggestions came hours before the Senate Finance Committee met to begin its formal “markup” of the tax bill, a process that includes debate about the legislation and the consideration of amendments.

The Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will agree to an amendment to the tax bill from Senator Aqua Buddha, Rand Paul, fresh off having his ribs broken after a neighbor tackled him in a bizarre incident. Senate GOP to add repeal of Obamacare insurance mandate into tax bill:

Senate Republican leaders are changing their tax bill to include a repeal of a key plank of the Affordable Care Act, a major alteration as they now try to accomplish two of their top domestic priorities in a single piece of legislation.

GOP party leaders said Tuesday they would now attach a provision to their tax bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a part of the health care law that creates penalties for Americans who don’t have health insurance.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday after meeting with party members during a closed-door lunch.

Republicans had up until Tuesday resisted making the change, worried that injecting health care politics would imperil the tax bill. But many of their members have supported adding the repeal, which President Trump has suggested repeatedly.

Repealing the health care provision would free up more than $300 billion in government funding over the next decade, but it would also eventually lead to 13 million fewer people having health insurance, according to projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

* * *

[T]he change could unnerve less conservative Republican senators, who voted against previous Senate efforts to repeal large parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

In addition to repealing the individual mandate, the updated tax bill could also likely include a new bipartisan health care agreement recently reached by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-Wash), according to Republican Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

That Murray-Alexander agreement would fund federal subsidies used to help lower-income Americans afford their health care.

The push for the change came after repeated demands from Trump, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark).

Earlier Tuesday, Paul said he would introduce an amendment to the tax bill that would repeal the individual mandate and use the savings to lower taxes for middle class families. The tax bills in the House and Senate would lower taxes for many Americans, but nonpartisan analysts have concluded millions would pay higher taxes, particularly if they lived in states such as New York, New Jersey, and California.

But he might not need to propose an amendment not that GOP leaders have largely agreed to make the change. The bill could not be amended during debate this week in the Senate Finance Committee.

Trump has called for the adding a repeal of the individual mandate into the tax cut bill, though he has said the savings should go toward lowering the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans.

Republicans spent much of the first eight months of 2011 trying to repeal or roll back the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. But they were repeatedly stymied by GOP defections in the Senate, with a handful of Republicans saying they wanted the changes to be either more sweeping or done in a bipartisan way.

Republicans control just 52 votes of the 100-seat Senate, and so the defection of three members would imperil any changes to the bill. They are trying to pass the tax cut bill through a process known as reconciliation, which means they only need a majority of support to pass the bill.

House GOP leaders have said they would explore whether to include a repeal of the individual mandate in their version of the tax cut bill, but they have so far not made that change. They are hoping to vote on their version of the measure as soon as Thursday.

The House and Senate must pass matching versions of the tax cut bill in order for Trump to be able to sign them into law.

So, sabotaging “Obamacare” and taking health care away from 13 million Americans is how the GOP will pay for its tax cuts for corporations and Plutocrats.

This is only one means the Senate can use to get around its “Byrd Rule.” Tara Golsham continues:

It will all come down to what the Senate parliamentarian will permit. There’s no question that Republicans are desperately in search of budget gimmicks and rosy economic projections to make it all work — the question is if it will.

* * *

Republicans have tied their hands: They have passed a budget that allows them to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion in the first 10 years, but they want to pursue massive tax cuts that appear to increase the deficit outside that 10-year window.

House Republicans are expected to vote on their tax bill this week, as the Senate is marking up its version — both would have to see substantial changes to pass the Byrd test.

The ways Republicans are trying to get around the Byrd question

Already Republicans are using gimmicks to get around this, the major one being passing what appears to a sweeping tax cut that will sunset after 10 years. This is what former President George W. Bush did with his tax cuts under budget reconciliation in 2001, essentially getting around the deficit restriction by making the tax cuts temporary. This House included some of this, sunsetting the $300 family credit after five years. The Senate could do the same.

There are already rumors of a temporary and permanent split in tax reform proposals among Republican members. The question is whose tax cuts are permanent and whose are temporary. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said his committee has “every intention of making the business reforms permanent” at the start of the bill’s markup — meaning it might be the individual tax cuts that will sunset, instead of the corporate rate.

One way this happens, floated by Zach Moller, a senior policy analyst for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, is what he calls the “Title Gambit.” Republicans could split up their tax bill into three separate titles: One would be a temporary Republican-led effort that would pursue aggressive tax cuts; a second would be permanent and comply with Senate rules; and the third would be a permanent bipartisan proposal needing 60 votes that would likely find consensus around issues like the child tax credit or doubling the standard deduction. By going this route, Republicans would be able to split the impact of the deficit between budget reconciliation bills and regular order.

But again, it comes down to whether the parliamentarian will go for these separate titles, which are usually separated by committee involvement.

Some analysts have also floated the nuclear option, in which the presiding officer of the Senate — Vice President Mike Pence — just overrules the Senate parliamentarian. McConnell did not allow for this in the health care debate, but some have theorized there is more pressure for him to go to extreme lengths this time.

Either way, Republicans are relying on projections of increased economic growth from tax cuts to offset the revenue losses from those cuts, known as “dynamic scoring,” to sell their tax bill.

The Senate Budget Committee could also use a different, more ideologically conservative score of their tax plan instead of the CBO’s evaluation, like the Tax Foundation’s score or the Treasury Department’s.

But currently, even under the rosiest of projections, economic growth alone doesn’t seem to be enough to offset the full losses from the deepest cuts Republicans have proposed. The conservative Tax Foundation found the House tax bill would still increase the deficit by $500 billion, and projections from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School showed that by 2040, the debt would increase by $6.4 trillion to $6.9 trillion.

The tax cuts aren’t paying for themselves. And there’s still skepticism whether the Senate parliamentarian will accept those growth numbers.

Call your senators and demand that they reject destroying America’s health care system and taking away health care from 13 million Americans just so President Trump and Tea-Publicans can declare a “win,” his only legislative victory, by giving tax cuts to corporations and Plutocrats while also increasing taxes on th middle class.

Neither of Arizona’s senators have any concerns about reelection at this point. They are free to vote their conscience. They should do what is right for their constituents and America, not what is demanded by party loyalty.

UPDATE: Industry groups representing doctors, hospitals and insurance companies wrote to Congress on Tuesday to express their opposition to repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate. Medical Groups To Congress: Don’t Nuke The Individual Mandate:

In a letter, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Federation of American Hospitals said that eliminating the mandate “likely will result in a significant increase in premiums, which would in turn substantially increase the number of uninsured Americans.”

“Experts agree that in order to have a health insurance system in which anyone can obtain coverage regardless of their health status, there must be incentives for everyone to enroll in and maintain coverage throughout the year,” the groups wrote in their statement.

They added: “Repealing the individual mandate without a workable alternative will reduce enrollment, further destabilizing an already fragile individual and small group health insurance market on which more than 10 million Americans rely.”

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured people by 13 million by 2027.

House GOP tax scam exposed

The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved the House Republicans’ bill to rewrite the tax code on a party-line vote. GOP tax bill clears hurdle, heads to House floor:

The measure — which reduces the number of individual tax rates, slashes the corporate tax rate and eliminates many deductions and credits — was approved on a party-line vote of 24-16.

The only changes made to the bill during the markup were from amendments offered by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

Thursday afternoon, Brady made a number of changes to the bill which included restoring the adoption tax credit, additional tax relief for pass-through businesses and higher tax rates on repatriated foreign earnings.

Republicans and Democrats argued during the markup over whether the bill would help the middle class. GOP lawmakers pointed to estimates from the Joint Committee on Taxation that showed that on average every income group would get a tax cut in 2019.

“It was established over and over again that the Joint Committee on Taxation says taxpayers at every quintile will pay less taxes under this plan,” said Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.).

But Democrats cited Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that showed some middle-class taxpayers would still see their taxes go up, particularly in later years.

“This bill will raise taxes on the middle class. It will raise taxes on the middle class. It will raise taxes on the middle class,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).

So who is right? As one should surmise, it’s not the GOP bait-and-switch tax scammers. Paul Waldman of the Washington Post reports, The GOP tax plan will raise taxes on lots of people. A new analysis shows how many.

Republicans have always been good at spin, but right now they’re facing one of the most extraordinary PR challenges they’ve ever confronted: Can they sell a bill that raises taxes on tens of millions of Americans as a glorious tax cut for everyone?

It would be an extraordinary trick if they managed to pull it off, but distracting from the facts will be no easy task.

Continue reading

Paul Ryan’s bait-and-switch sales campaign for the GOP tax bill

Last week the GOP’s alleged boy genius and Ayn Rand fan boy, Paul Ryan, “the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin,” rolled out the GOP’s tax bill with this sales campaign: that a typical family of four will save $1,182 under the GOP tax bill.

“I don’t envy the partisans tasked with messaging against giving middle income families (family of four making $59K) $1,182 back,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s press secretary wrote on Twitter, adding the hashtag #1182more …

… said the shameless GOPropagandist. Well defenders of truth, justice and the American way have no fear of soulless GOPropagandists, lady.

Dylan Matthews at Vox.com explains how Ryan’s example is a bait-and-switch campaign that will actually raise taxes on middle-class families. Paul Ryan’s poster family for middle-class tax cuts would ultimately get a tax hike:

The problem with selling the bill this way is that the claim is only partially true.

It is true that the average household in 2016, which the Census Bureau estimates makes made $59,039, would get a tax cut worth about $1,100 in the first year. (A more technical quibble with the claim is that many households aren’t families, and the average household size is 2.53, not 4.)

But after the first year, that claim looks much shakier. As NYU tax law professor and former Obama adviser David Kamin explains in a Medium post, the plan would actually result in a sizable tax increase for such a household over time:

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 1.09.15 PM

Continue reading