The Farley Report from Phoenix #225: 4-8-15

This will be the final weekly Farley Report of 2015, but have no fear, you will get your updates monthly until next session. Before I get to the aftermath of a truly disastrous, but thankfully brief, session for Arizona, I want to ask you to help me continue this work. 

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If you appreciate these reports and my representation as your Senator, Please help out my campaign in these ways: 

1) If you live in District 9, please sign my online petition. Since I posted it last week, the AZ Secretary of State's office has now fixed the link so it should work for you now. Please CLICK HERE TO SIGN.

2) If you live anywhere in the U.S., please contribute what you can to my re-election campaign. Although I did not vote for these higher limits, you can now contribute up to $5,000 for the 2016 cycle, although I am just as honored by $50 or even $5 donations. Whatever seems right for you is right for me. Thank you for the support. 

CLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE.

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--> The session came to a messy, abrupt halt last Friday morning at 1:07am in the Senate, and a couple of hours later in the House. We were able to kill a few bad bills in the end, including a Senate voter suppression bill that would have made collecting more than two sealed ballots from neighbors a felony (Don Shooter's SB1339) which otherwise would have had the votes to pass. 

Also dying was Governor Ducey's priority to create a new Inspector General department reporting only to him "with badges and uniforms" and police power but no defined training or purpose. Senate Republicans hated that as much as Democrats did. 

Other bad bills left on the chopping block were SB1172, the educator gag bill to ban all school employees and teachers from political speech, a bill to massively expand taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, a bill to go after local governments and individual officeholders who try to regulate firearms, a bill to eliminate fine arts requirements for university admissions, and a bill to ask voters to end Clean Elections. 

Many bad bills previously got through and were (and are being) signed by Governor Ducey, and the budget was horrible, but the death of so many bad bills on the last day gave reasonable Arizonans an unexpected high note. 

Given the many holes in the budget we passed, including lack of funding for the court ordered K-12 inflation funding, a 5% provider rate cut for hospitals and doctors who serve Medicaid patients which will likely be denied a required federal waiver, and sweeps of funds that cannot legally be swept, we will be back in special session before too long to fix the messes. 

--> In case you were wondering why we rushed that budget through so quickly, tomorrow's Finance Advisory Committee will give you the answer -- our revenues are growing at a faster rate than previously thought, so our deficit is smaller than projected. Which means that we would not have had to cut so much if we had passed the budget on a normal schedule. The Governor and Legislative majority appear to have decided to rush the budget so that they would have the excuse to cut more than otherwise necessary in their efforts to shrink the size of government regardless of revenues. Is that fiscal conservatism?

--> "Research shows that a quality early childhood education experience can yield significant long-term benefits on overall development of a child. It's the most profitable investment we can make in their future.'' 

This statement was made by Governor Doug Ducey yesterday at a Phoenix preschool. Sadly, when responding to questions from the press, as reported by Howie Fischer, Ducey "said that does not mean Arizona intends to put some money towards such programs. 'We know that there's a good return on investment,' he said. But Ducey said people need to recognize the state's financial condition. 'The state of Arizona of course can do better,' Ducey said. But the governor acknowledged, he's busy trying to refocus attention away from the dollars spent."

Given this statement, it was interesting that on the same day the Governor decided that the financial condition of the state is good enough to sign a bill from House Majority Whip David Livingston (R-Peoria), an insurance agent, that would cut income taxes to large out-of-state insurance companies with offices here. Justifying his bill and the millions of dollars more that it would cost our general fund,  Livingston said, "Insurance companies are paying more and more while corporations are paying less and less. So we are trying to even that out."

Despite our financial condition, our leaders decided in the last few months to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars more in additional tax cuts to corporations and the rich. (Think that "middle-class" tax cut in the form of adjusting tax brackets for inflation that you heard about will help you? It will save the family earning $50,000 a year a total of $2.98 while shutting their kids' neighborhood school. People earning $300,000 or more will be getting the huge payoff.) And rather than eliminate some of the more than $12.6 billion in special interest sales tax loopholes, they added more. All this while cutting $352.4 million from K-12 schools, $99 million from universities, and zeroing out community colleges. 

To Gov. Ducey and the legislative majority, it's a fairness issue. It's only fair that we give away more taxpayer dollars to large corporations, and then plead poverty when it's time to fund our children's education. After all, those big guys are the job creators, although we have yet to see that big job bump we were promised when they passed all those other corporate tax cuts over the past few years (as they cut education at all levels). And how will these corporations find qualified employees if we do not educate them?

I've said it before, and I will say it again. It's not that we don't have the money to fund education, transportation, healthcare, and economic development. This governor and this legislative majority have chosen instead to give the money away.

--> As this series of articles from the last few days makes clear, the people currently running the State of Arizona are showing increasing contempt for the citizens they serve as they consolidate their power in unprecedented ways that will make it more difficult for us to vote them out of office. 

1) As reported in the Arizona Daily Sun, Sen. Sylvia Allen told constituents at an education town hall in their district last Friday: “ 'You want me to go after other people’s money because you think it justifies (it) because we’re going to give it to kids for their education. It would have to be done very carefully because, you know, go look up socialist countries.' The crowd gasped but Allen was not finished. 'Oh yeah?' she said, challenging the audience. 'You can’t be polite about what I say but I have to be polite about what you say. You’re all here to beat us up because you’re upset that we just don’t raise taxes.' "

2) Business-conservative Republic columnist Bob Robb calls Ducey's "government at the speed of business" catchphrase what it is -- nonsense -- in this excellent editorial. Key passage: "Successful businesses don't decide where to spend $9.1 billion in a three-day marathon blitz capped by a judgment-impairing all-nighter, as the Legislature did. That's not operating at the speed of business. That's operating at the speed of 19-year-olds cramming for midterm exams."

3) The current majority leadership in the Legislature and the Governor's Office -- through all-night sessions, rushed budgets, minimized public input, voter-suppression bills, cutting public education at all levels, giving away public resources to private businesses, unfair committee assignments for Democratic bills, increasing campaign contribution limits, protecting anonymous dark-money contributors, and cynical Orwellian doublespeak -- is running the risk of changing our representative democracy into an autocratic corporate oligarchy that is increasingly hard to challenge by the rest of us. This opinion piece by the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff lays it all out for their readers. Opening paragraph: "It may sound harsh, but it’s a question that has to be asked: Does the legislative majority at the State House value consolidating political power more than protecting representative democracy?"

This trajectory is dangerous for our future, and is eerily reminiscent of the types of strategies used by third-world dictators to hold onto their power -- the same things we warn those countries to avoid if they are to regain our good graces here in the world's democratic beacon. 

The legitimacy of the laws we make depends on the integrity with which we make them, and that depends on public input, mutual respect, and a level political playing field for all involved. Those currently holding the levers of power in Arizona are playing with fire. It's time for the statesmen within to rise above the temptations of that power in order to restore our American birthright of unfettered access to the political process.   

It's time to change the majority, before it is too late. #RememberInNovember 

--> Lest you get too depressed or angry, I want to end with some good news. At Tucson Medical Center today I celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act with public health leaders from across the region and representatives from the White House.  

They announced that in the first year of the Marketplace Exchange and Medicaid expansion, the percentage of uninsured people in Pima County dropped from 17% to 10%, and that number continues to fall. More than 200,000 people have obtained health insurance over the Marketplace statewide, and 52% of whom pay less than $100 a month for coverage. Hospitals are healthier from the reduced costs for reduced uninsured care. Good policy can make a huge positive difference in people's lives. We need more of it.

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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