Category Archives: Taxes

AZ House: Left & Right Converge on Funding Issues (Sometimes) (video)

HB2492

A bipartisan vote stopped HB2492, a corporate welfare bill for Arizona’s largest, most successful employers.

Everyone keeps telling me “things are different this year” in the Arizona House of Representatives.

From my perspective, there are many possible reasons why things are different, but the three most obvious are: 1) Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard has chosen to run the House efficiently and fairly; 2) 23 House members (including 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans) were elected for the first time in 2016; and 3) the Democratic Caucus is highly diverse, with half of the members being women, more than half Latino, and several Progressive.

The result has been some interesting votes on funding issues. On several spending votes, fiscally conservatives (who don’t like to spend money) and fiscally conservative Progressives (who don’t want to spend money on non-essentials until the schools are made whole) are voting together for different reasons. (This phenomenon is being reported at the Congressional level also— with both far-right Republicans and Progressive Democrats voicing extreme dislike for TrumpCare.)

As the Arizona House moves from hearing bills in committee and voting on the floor to debating and voting on the budget, it will be interesting to watch the Conservative/Progressive budget hawks.  A hint of things to come can be found in a recent article from the Capitol Times: Ducey determined to pass university bond plan lawmakers dislike.

As outlined in his address to the Arizona Legislature on Inauguration Day, Governor Doug Ducey wants to increase funding for building construction and repairs at the three universities by giving them back the tax they paid on the purchases they made. (The proposal is to refund their Transaction Privilege Tax or TPT– essentially sales tax.)

The universities would split the roughly $30 million per year proportionally and use those funds to pay interest on roughly $1 billion in bonds.

There are multiple reasons I don’t like this idea…

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AZ Court of Appeals upholds Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan

The Arizona Court of Appeals has affirmed the Maricopa County Superior Court decision upholding former governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan in 2013. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Arizona appeals court says Medicaid expansion law is constitutional:

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 health care law was approved by a simple majority.

At issue is the assessment on hospitals, which the state uses to draw down matching federal funds.

The law has allowed Arizona to expand eligibility to residents who earn between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

In 2015, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach also upheld the law, ruling that the hospital assessment that funds the program is not subject to Arizona Constitution’s supermajority provision.

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Trump’s militaristic budget comes at the expense of the poor that he said he wanted to help

Donald Trump’s xenophobic white nationalist “America First” campaign from his alt-right Rasputin, Steve Bannon, has now produced a “fortress America” militaristic budget that comes at the expense of every other aspect of the federal government, and particularly at the expense of America’s poor, the very people Trump claimed he wanted to help during his campaign.

This budget comes before Trump has even rolled out his yuuuge tax cut plan to benefit himself and his wealthy Plutocrat friends — a tax expenditure that will: (a) require deeper budget cuts than those he has proposed, and or (b) explode the federal deficit, because faith based supply-side “trickle down” GOP economics does not work. It is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people.

The only saving grace is that the president’s budget, Democrat or Republican, has been dead on arrival in Congress in recent American history. There is little or no chance that Trump’s proposed budget will be the actual budget eventually produced by Congress.

The Washington Post today has numerous reports breaking down Trump’s proposed budget. “President Trump’s first budget proposes a $54 billion increase in military spending while seeking significant cuts across much of the rest of the federal government, including reductions of more than 20 percent at the departments of Agriculture, Labor and State, and more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.” Plan calls for reductions in spending for science, diplomacy and the poor.

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David Cay Johnston on Trump’s 2005 Form 1040

David Cay Johnston is an investigative journalist and author who is a specialist in economics and tax issues, and the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.  Johnston also wrote the book on Donald Trump, literally: The Making of Donald Trump (August 2016).

Johnston’s latest scoop on “The Donald” is his 2005 Form 1040 tax summary that an unidentified individual mailed to him unsolicited. DCREPORT EXCLUSIVE: Trump Earned $153 Million In 2005; He Paid $36.6 Million In Taxes:

DCReport has obtained Donald Trump’s Form 1040 federal tax return for 2005. There’s no smoking gun there, no obvious evasion, but clearly some bending of the tax laws almost to the breaking point. The document offers a rare glimpse at how a super wealthy couple can manipulate and manage our complex tax laws to reduce their obligations far below rates paid by typical salaried professionals or even blue-collar wage earners.

The White House [preemptively] confirmed the authenticity of the tax returns [before this story was reported]. “Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid,” the White House said in a statement, “the dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.”

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GOP’s ‘Obamacare’ repeal bill threatens public health in Arizona

Debate over the GOP’s American Health Care Act largely focuses on how the bill seeks to remake private-sector insurance and the Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people, but a less-publicized provision of the bill would eliminate a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fund of nearly $1 billion that sustains public health programs nationwide. GOP health bill would cut nearly $47 million in Arizona public health funds:

Arizona could lose $46.8 million in federal public health funding over the next five years via a cut included in the House Republican health bill, likely forcing local health departments to reduce or cut public health programs.

The Arizona Department of Health Services received $9.3 million this fiscal year from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The money is included in the Affordable Care Act, but the GOP plan that cleared two House committees last week would discontinue funding next fiscal year.

The fund pays for program such as providing childhood immunizations and counteracting emerging public health threats such as the Zika and Ebola viruses. It also helps pay for efforts to curb childhood lead poisoning, fight heart disease, manage diabetes, promote skin-cancer awareness and smoking cessation.

“This funding is in danger,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “There is no guarantee these programs would continue.”

Christ noted that money for many of these public health programs was allotted before the Affordable Care Act became the nation’s health law in 2010, so she is hopeful that Congress will restore funding even though the GOP bill, as written, would eliminate it next fiscal year.

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OMB preliminary analysis is in line with CBO analysis of GOP’s ‘Obamacare’ repeal bill

A White House preliminary analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday. White House analysis of Obamacare repeal sees even deeper insurance losses than CBO:

The preliminary analysis from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates. The White House has made efforts to discredit the forecasts from the nonpartisan CBO.

White House officials late Monday night disputed that the document is an analysis of the bill’s coverage effects. Instead, they say it was an attempt by the OMB to predict what CBO’s scorekeepers would conclude about the GOP repeal plan.

“This is not an analysis of the bill in any way whatsoever,” White House Communications Director Michael Dubke told POLITICO. “This is OMB trying to project what CBO’s score will be using CBO’s methodology.”

In that case, the OMB closely approximated what the CBO analysis says using its congressionally mandated “dynamic scoring” method, which lends credibility to the CBO report, rather than discredit it. CBO was more conservative in its estimate.

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