The Daily Agenda: Mo money, fewer votes
Let the PC battles commence ... Do not wake the constituent ... And who is Al Jones and why would anyone want his underwear?
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It’s budget season at the Capitol, or, at least, it’s the time of year when lawmakers should be sitting down to put numbers on paper and craft their response to Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee is preparing to put out another round of monthly fiscal highlights, the running tally of how awesome Arizona’s economy is. It’ll probably be out later today, and will almost certainly show finances continue to be off the charts.
But The Notorious B.I.G. understood a fundamental fact of budgeting: “Mo money, mo problems.”
Lawmakers seem to have no trouble making cuts, but when there’s money to spend, each lawmaker wants a piece of that action for their pet cause. And with the slim margins at the Capitol, increasing the budget is a tricky proposition: Each earmark to satisfy one Republican lawmaker’s pet priority risks being seen as pork by another Republican.
Add in the ongoing 2020 election insanity, the previously unknown effect of Prop 208 and general dysfunction of the Legislature, and we’re likely looking at a very long session. Other than the potential special session to repeal and replace the massive tax cut passed last year that are now the subject of a referendum, lawmakers this year don’t appear to have even started the budgeting process yet. At least, not that we can tell publicly — and that’s a big part of the problem.
And lawmakers have a huge amount of cash to play with this year. Revenues are growing by roughly 20% over last year. Economists say that the upcoming fiscal year is projected to stay strong, but note that with inflation skyrocketing, the future beyond next year is as uncertain as ever.
The major factors fueling our Roaring Twenties economy include:
The massive infusion of cash the feds have thrown at states to fight the pandemic have boosted state finances and personal income.
People are spending the savings they built up during the pandemic, including from stimulus checks.
A booming stock market and out-of-control housing prices are fueling taxable capital gains taxes.
And corporate profit growths are up nationwide.
Even under the JLBC’s “maximum commitment scenario” — which assumes that the federal government didn’t extend an increased Medicaid matching rate (it did) and the big spending of Prop 208 and the massive tax cuts that are subject of a looming referendum both went into effect (it doesn’t look likely) — Arizona still has more than $1 billion to spend on an ongoing basis and more than $2 billion to spend on one-time needs. For context, Arizona’s current year budget is around $13 billion.
Assuming the tax cuts are vetoed at the ballot and Prop 208 stays dead, lawmakers will have somewhere around another $2.5 billion to $3 billion of ongoing revenue on their hands. And that’s not to mention the nearly $1 billion in the state’s rainy day fund.
That’s enough money to make everyone happy, including Democrats, if the budget process actually included them and their priorities. But don’t expect to see a broad, bipartisan budget: It’s an election year, after all.
We, your humble newsletter writers, have never suffered from a “mo money, mo problems” scenario. It’s a dream of ours to one day run into that problem, but it relies on readers like you to pay a meager $8 per month to support the Arizona Agenda.
Decision 2020 continues: The bevy of bills to change Arizona elections has now winnowed down. The Republic has a rundown of which ones are still alive, about two dozen of the more than 100 filed. Two of the Senate bills that failed would’ve put images of completed ballots online, which a few other states already do. And speaking of failures, the bill that got assigned to 12 committees in the House, assuring its demise, will get a hearing in the Senate Government Committee, where no idea is too stupid to be heard. While some of the most egregious election bills died this year, they’ll undoubtedly come back again, and they let constituents know their conspiracies will be treated seriously in the Legislature. If the AZGOP lawsuit that argues any early voting is unconstitutional were to succeed, it’d be “electoral chaos” as the number of voters would increase exponentially on Election Day. Meanwhile, the PC snafu that got rid of elections for party faithfuls still isn’t fixed, and it’s still pretty much just a problem for the GOP.
Speaking of PCs: The Maricopa County Republican Party voted to strip Kathy Petsas, a moderate Republican who chairs the Legislative District 28 Republicans, of her voting rights as a PC, saying she endorsed a Democrat over a Republican in a Phoenix City Council election last year. City council elections are nonpartisan, and then-candidate Deb Stark’s consultant says Petsas didn’t endorse her. This issue on its own seems petty, but it speaks to the larger divisions among the Arizona GOP as the party leaders shift further right.
When does the resignation watch begin?: Attorney General Mark Brnovich wants answers from Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel about the 180 cases where charges weren’t filed because they missed the time window, the Republic’s Robert Anglen reports. Brnovich notes in his letter to Adel that his office has some supervisory authority over county attorneys. And that brings us to a key question: What can be done to get Adel out of office? Republic columnist Elvia Díaz lays out some options.
Did he read our story about the Colombia Project?: We don’t really care about endorsements on the whole. Most of them don’t mean much to a regular voter (aside from something like a Trump endorsement these days), and a layperson probably doesn’t even recognize the names of many of the endorsers. Candidates and campaigns care about them, voters (and journalists) typically don’t. But it’s usually an eyebrow-raiser when someone un-endorses a candidate because it can point to a larger vulnerability. And Democratic Rep. Richard Andrade just withdrew his endorsement of Democratic GOP candidate Katie Hobbs, instead throwing his support behind Marco Lopez, because of the Talonya Adams firing.
Russia is not where you want to be arrested: Even during the best of times, which are not these times, WBNA star Brittney Griner, who is detained in Russia on drug charges, could be facing several years in prison there, where their conviction rate is extremely high, USA Today’s Lindsay Schnell, Mike Freeman and Chris Bumbaca report. Those close to Griner have refrained from speaking publicly about her situation at all because they worry any comments could sour the Russian government further, but she is reportedly doing OK, the story notes.
Symbolic but that’s about it: A bill that adds LGBTQ+ people to anti-discrimination protections got a hearing, but not a vote, in the House, and it more than likely will not become law this year. One parent of LGBTQ+ kids said the bill showed some progress, but that its religious exemptions made her oppose the bill.
In automotive news: A bill that allows motorcycle lane-splitting, which we assumed was already legal based on what we see on the roads, has passed both chambers and awaits Ducey’s approval. A bill that passed the House and awaits a full Senate vote seeks to lessen catalytic converter thefts by adding to the statute that already makes these thefts illegal.
Note to self: Don’t claim a Porsche on the Arizona Agenda tax filings: Keith Bee, who served in the Arizona Legislature as a Tucson Republican in the 1990s and as a justice of the peace in Pima County, received a six-month prison sentence for filing a false tax return. He inflated his business expenses to avoid taxes and claimed personal assets as business ones.
Spending limits abound: While the K-12 aggregate expenditure limit problem is resolved for now, the interest in the spending limit drew attention to another educational entity with its own spending limit, community colleges. They’re held to a 1980 voter-approved limit, which they already hit this fiscal year, though a bill could increase their limit as well, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas reports.
Previous bottleneck in Yuma resolved: Groups that help migrants say that migrants and asylum seekers apprehended at the U.S-Mexico border are still being dropped off at Greyhound stations and sometimes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport without travel arrangements, causing bottlenecks, the Republic’s Rafael Carranza reports.
Union-busting just leads to more unionizers: Workers at a Scottsdale Starbucks say they got their hours cut after joining a unionization effort as the wave of Starbucks unionization around the country, and specifically in Arizona, continues, KJZZ’s Vaughan Jones reports.
It’s not just gas prices: Your car insurance premiums are likely increasing this year, after insurers gave drivers a break on costs during the height of the pandemic and now are increasing prices to reflect more driving and higher costs for repairs.
Who will fix the potholes though?: The Goldwater Institute won a case against a Pinal County sales tax that funded transportation projects, which had exempted purchases over $10,000, because the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that counties aren’t allowed to create tiered tax systems, the Republic’s Joshua Bowling notes. But the ruling doesn’t appear to affect city and town sales taxes with similar structures.
Today’s housing crisis installment: In downtown Phoenix, rents in the past two decades have soared as more luxury apartments took root there than in other parts of the Valley. (We always wonder who lives in these fancy $2,000 per month one-bedrooms; we never see anyone coming and going, like they’re Wonka factories.) In Tucson, one nonprofit is trying to help address homelessness by building some tiny houses, though the demand for housing far outpaces the ability to meet it.
Put that on the brochures: One employee of a California-based company came to Tucson during the pandemic to work remotely, and it inspired the company to expand and open an office in the Old Pueblo, which the CEO referred to as “10 Palm Springs put together,” the Arizona Daily Star’s Gabriela Rico reports.
The Great Reshuffling: Valley Metro named Jessica Mefford-Miller, a St. Louis transportation executive, as its new CEO, replacing former Mesa mayor Scott Smith. And former state elections director Amy B. Chan joins the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office as legal counsel, replacing Sambo Dul, who will join the States United Democracy Center.
Sure, why not: If you want to send your kids to Pitbull’s charter school, the musician’s SLAM!, or Sports Leadership Arts and Management, is now enrolling K-5 students in its Mesa offshoot and plans to open this August.
We hope to be poster children one day: Journalist Casey Newton used to cover the Arizona Legislature before becoming a go-to tech writer whose Substack newsletter serves as a poster child for the newsletter economy, the Republic’s Bill Goodykoontz writes.
Sell your shit to science: No, literally, your poop. A company opening up a new location in Tempe is paying $25 to $75 per poop to develop a treatment for a poop disorder.
Dentists will soon be able to provide Botox for cosmetic purposes in Arizona, after Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill expanding the scope of practice for the profession.
“Scope of practice” refers to the procedures a medical professional is allowed by law to perform. Each year, there are bills to expand the scope for various professions, and they sometimes become big battles between different licensed health care groups. The most interesting one we covered, years ago, would have allowed chiropractors to perform their work on animals, which ran into opposition from veterinarians.
Senate Bill 1074, sponsored by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto, allows dentists to do both Botox and dermal fillers on the “oral maxillofacial complex,” which is basically the head and neck, for either therapeutic or cosmetic purposes. Previously, dentists here could do Botox only for therapeutic purposes related specifically to their dental needs.
The expansion of dental practice resulted from another wonky part of the legislative process, the sunrise review. In that process, a profession can request to be regulated, or an already regulated profession can request an expansion of scope. In this case, the Arizona Dental Association asked to expand its scope.
The bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both chambers, and Ducey signed it on Friday, along with 18 other bills.
We previously noted Kari Lake’s Make Honduras Great Again clothing line, but today we want to call your attention to another candidate’s campaign clothing.
We don’t know where the clothing for the campaign of Al Jones, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate in downtown Phoenix’s Legislative District 5, is being manufactured.
But we’re more curious if he’s actually sold any of the campaign apparel he’s advertising on his website, including Al Jones branded men’s boxers, which he bills as for a “gent with a style all his own.”
If you think that’s a horrible idea, just wait until you see the campaign’s “thong panties (that) will make her feel a little more naughty than nice in the most discreet, one-of-a-kind way. … She’ll enjoy minimal coverage and maximum comfort for a fun and flirty feel.”