by David Safier
In my previous post, I wrote about a Howard Fischer article in today's Star, Trib and Sun. The article is about a property tax hike created by Republicans which passed $70 million onto property owners instead of putting it in the state budget. I guess they figure they're still honoring their No New Taxes pledge if they kick the tax can down the road.
I just found an article in the Republic by Mary Jo Pitzl written two weeks ago which does a far better job of explaining what happened than the Fischer article, even before Fischer's article was massacred by the Star. Here are some excerpts that call the Republican maneuver exactly what it is.
Homeowners in numerous school districts statewide are going to end up with higher property-tax bills because of a little-noticed tax shift lawmakers approved in the state budget.
The shift, included in an education-budget bill, pushes $70 million of the state's responsibility for school finance onto homeowners by limiting the "homeowner rebate" on annual tax bills. The rebate subsidizes part of the property tax that homeowners owe for education. The funding change made by the state will force school districts to raise their local taxes on homeowners to compensate.
Republican lawmakers, who approved the tax shift despite an aversion to tax increases, cast the move as a fairness issue rather than a tax hike.
But Democrats say it's one more example of a patchwork approach to the state's ongoing budget deficits and another reason the state needs to overhaul its tax code.
School officials say that they are likely to get heat for the tax increases from homeowners who will see higher bills without gaining any programs or improvements, even though the Legislature is responsible.
"If you signed a no-tax statement that you wouldn't raise taxes, well – you did," said Chuck Essigs, government-relations director for the Arizona Association of School Budget Officials. "It's a nice way to blame the school districts."
Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, is one of many Democrats in the Legislature who complained that the Republican-driven budget included tax hikes. The increase is another example of the Legislature's quick-fix approach to its fiscal woes, he said.
"This got us $70 million, basically," he said. "It's a drop in the bucket. This is not a fix to our problem. We have not seen a fix from Governor Brewer."
Campbell said lawmakers need to tackle comprehensive tax reform rather than enacting a cut here or tacking on a tax hike there.
Compared to Pitzl's work, Fischer's article looks like a bit of a white wash.
Pitzl ends with an interesting fact. Remember how the Republicans screamed and hollered about the reinstatement of property taxes that had been suspended? Yep, these same people shoved a property tax hike into the budgetary fine print and hoped no one would notice.