Category Archives: Infrastructure

While you were sleeping, AZ legislature passes Ducey’s immoral budget

After a marathon session of back room deals and arm twisting among Tea-Publican legislators — to the exclusion of the Democratic minority who represent over 40% of Arizonans — Arizona’s Tea-Publican controlled legislature approved a budget in the wee hours of Friday morning when only a handful of reporters were left watching their dirty deed. This is how one-party autocracy works in Arizona.

“A budget is a moral document.” Ducey’s budget is immoral.

The Arizona Republic reports, Arizona lawmakers pass $9.8 billion budget:

Arizona lawmakers passed a $9.8 billion budget early Friday that provides 2 percent pay hikes for public-school teachers, a modest income-tax cut for residents and $1 billion in extra bonding authority for the state’s public universities.

The final spending plan for fiscal 2018 featured key elements Republican Gov. Doug Ducey outlined in January, as lawmakers began their work. But it also underwent significant changes at the hands of Republicans in the House and Senate. No Democrats voted for the budget.

“Arizona has passed a budget that prioritizes education, boosts teacher pay, and invests in our universities — all without raising taxes on hardworking Arizonans,” Ducey said in a statement minutes after the budget won final approval at 3:55 a.m. “For the first time in a decade, we are making significant and lasting investments to grow our state.”

Ducey won’t receive the budget bills until Monday, when the Senate is scheduled to send the final documents to his office. He is expected to sign them.

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Action Alert: budget to be debated in the Arizona legislature today

Over at the madhouse on Washington Street, i.e., the Arizona legislature, they have been teasing the possibility of a budget deal all week.

Their problem is that the budget is tied to Governor Doug Ducey’s unpopular bonding plan for the state universities to avoid having to rise taxes as the Arizona Constitution requires.  And that plan is in trouble. Lawmakers, governor move closer to a budget deal, including university bonding:

[T]he earliest budget bills could clear the Legislature and be sent to the governor’s desk for a signature is now Thursday. According to the Arizona Constitution, budget bills must be read in three calendar days. Budget proposal to be debated Thursday.

Budget documents used to brief GOP lawmakers, obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times, reveal a tentative deal that gives Ducey much of what he asked for, including a host of new initiatives to boost K-12 funding, new school construction and maintenance dollars, and money for a two percent teacher pay raise over two years.

It also appears that a deal struck that governor’s university bonding proposal, a sticking point, has ended the stalemate at the Capitol.

The university bonding plan was pitched by the Arizona Board of Regents as a mechanism that would allow universities to keep the sales taxes they would ordinarily pay to the state, which they would then use to borrow up to $1 billion. In Fiscal Year 2018, the sales tax was estimated to be $30.3 million from the state’s share, and nearly $7 million from the cities and counties’ share. Critics of the plan, who included several GOP lawmakers, questioned how much the pot of sales tax money would grow each year, and worried about its impact on cities and counties.

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The other show drops: Lawsuit against our lawless Tea-Publican legislature for unconstitutionally underfunding capital needs of school districts

I first posted about this pending lawsuit back in February 2015 and I have occasionally posted updates about its status.  Background: Update) Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature faces another lawsuit for its failure to fund public education:

Meanwhile, an earlier case in which our lawless Arizona legislature shortchanged our public schools, in which the Arizona Supreme Court held that the statutory financing scheme for public education violated the Arizona Constitution, Article XI, § 1, Roosevelt Elem. School Dist. No. 66  v. Bishop (No. CV-93-0168 1994), is now the basis for yet another lawsuit against our lawless Tea-Publican legislature.

A public interest advocacy group is planning a lawsuit alleging that the state has unconstitutionally underfunded building maintenance and soft capital for school districts, which could force the state restore hundreds of millions of dollars of budget cuts made in recent years.

The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest plans to sue on behalf of several school districts and taxpayers, said attorney Tim Hogan. The Glendale Elementary School District’s governing board in December [2014] voted to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff, and Hogan said he plans to bring in several other school districts, along with property taxpayers from districts that have approved bonds to make up for funding shortfalls.

“It will allege that the current system is unconstitutional because it doesn’t provide any dedicated capital funding to school districts sufficient to ensure that they meet the state’s minimum standards,” Hogan said of the lawsuit. “School buildings have to be renovated. They have to be repaired. They have to be maintained. And all of that requires significant dollars.”

In its landmark ruling in Roosevelt Elementary School District No. 66 v. Bishop, the Arizona Supreme Court concluded that the state had violated a provision in the Arizona Constitution requiring the state to establish and maintain a “general and uniform” public school system. As part of its settlement in the case, which led to the creation of the Arizona School Facilities Board, the state agreed to provide funding for building renewal, which covers all aspects of building upkeep and maintenance, and soft capital expenditures such as textbooks and computers.

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Zombie Voodoo Economics Returns

The so-called “Trump rally” in the stock market is fueled by unbridled greed and giddy anticipation of a huge corporate welfare tax cut package “even as Washington remains gridlocked and evidence of any real pickup in the economy is scarce.”

The market impact of the Trump presidency is based so far on prospects — with details and congressional dynamics left to be sorted out — rather than accomplishments.

* * *

The cause for bullishness on Tuesday was Mr. Trump’s new call to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, from 35 percent — deficits, perhaps, be damned.

As the Sith Lord Dick Cheney infamously reminded us, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter” to Republicans when they are in the White House.

The New York Times reports, Trump’s Tax Plan: Low Rate for Corporations, and for Companies Like His:

President Trump plans to unveil a tax cut blueprint — not an actual bill — on Wednesday that would apply a vastly reduced, 15 percent business tax rate not only to corporations but also to companies that now pay taxes through the personal income tax code — from mom-and-pop businesses to his own real estate empire, according to several people briefed on the proposal.

The package would also increase the standard deduction for individuals, providing a modest cut for middle-income people and simplifying the process of filing tax returns, according to people briefed on its details. That proposal is opposed by home builders and real estate agents, who fear it would diminish the importance of the mortgage interest deduction. And it is likely to necessitate eliminating or curbing other popular deductions, a politically risky pursuit.

As of late Tuesday, the plan did not include Mr. Trump’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure program, two of the people said, and it jettisoned a House Republican proposal to impose a substantial tax on imports, known as a border adjustment tax, which would have raised billions of dollars to help offset the cost of the cuts [and to pay for Trump’s folly of a border wall.]

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Why no state budget? Governor Ducey’s university bonding plan

This was supposed to be the week that the Arizona legislature passed a budget and then declared sine die. Didn’t happen.

According to the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), the holdup is Governor Doug Ducey’s university bonding proposal, the one he mentioned in his State of The State Address back in January but has still not fleshed out the details at this late date. Ducey’s bonding plan for universities has more questions than details:

Gov. Doug Ducey’s university bonding proposal is a vast unknown for Arizona lawmakers.

He doesn’t offer any long-term growth projections or specifics on how the state’s three universities will spend the $1 billion that the plan is supposed to generate. There is also no mention of oversight from the Governor’s Office or from the plan’s backers.

Lawmakers do understand the broad strokes of the universities’ wish list if they get the money: new buildings, research programs and repairs.

But the plan almost certainly will generate much more than needed to pay off a $1 billion loan over the course of its 30-year life, a fact acknowledged by both backers and foes, and that’s something lawmakers question.

Lawmakers are also hearing from cities and counties, which look to lose millions of dollars under the plan. Ken Strobeck, president of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said the plan is opaque by design, and he’s done his own analysis that shows the universities will gain more than $1 billion.

“These are not uninformed people,” Strobeck said. “I think they knew exactly what they were doing.”

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Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature is starving school districts, reducing classroom spending

Too few people read newspapers, and too many who do read only the headline caption to an article. Copy editors write the headlines, and too often the headlines are misleading and do not accurately reflect the content of the reporting.

For example, our sad small town newspaper the Arizona Daily Star ran the headline “Arizona spends less in classrooms” in its print edition, and “Arizona spending in classrooms declines year over year” in its online version for this Howard Fischer report. The Arizona Capitol Times similarly ran the headline “K-12 classroom spending reaches all-time low” for Fischer’s report.

So kudos to the copy editor of the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff for a headline that accurately reflects Howard Fischer’s reporting, Amid cuts in state capital funds, classroom spending falls:

Arizona’s mainstream public schools overall spent less of the money they received last year in the classroom than in any of the 16 years the state has been keeping track.

The trend tracks a cumulative $2 billion cut in state capital funding since 2009, forcing many school districts to shift dollars from teacher salaries and instruction into air conditioner and boiler repairs.

And state funding per pupil, when adjusted for inflation, has fallen from $8,794 in 2008 to $7,746 now.

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