Governor Ducey continues to stick to his no new taxes mantra but he and his ilk are being disingenuous. While touting lower taxes as the solution to attract business and jobs, he has continued to push costs down to the local levels so corporate tax breaks can continue to be handed out like candy.
One example of this is how the Legislature shifted $47 million of state budget costs to the counties. Pima County was stuck with $23.3 million (49%) of the cost, even though it only has 17% of the state’s population.[i] This is of course, is nothing new, but the scope of shift has been growing.
You may have heard that the legislature has, for some time now, been diverting Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) monies to other purposes while our roads fall into further disrepair. Collected by the state via taxes on motor fuels, and fees and charges relating to the registration and operation of motor vehicles, these revenues are deposited intended for use by the state for highway construction, improvements and other related expenses.[ii] When it is diverted however, taxpayers end up paying the original tax intended to maintain our roads, then are hit again when the money is diverted, leaving them with bad roads which damage their cars and require them to pay for repairs. A double tax anyway you look at it.
The $99 million in cuts to Arizona’s three universities are another example of the Governor’s cost shifts. On top of yearly reductions in state funding, these cuts add to the already 48.3 percent cuts to state spending per higher education students (highest in the Nation) from 2008 to 2014.[iii] Make no mistake, these students and those of their parents have not decreased, but now, they are also now forced to pay more again for their tuition.
The assault hasn’t only been visited upon higher education, but on K-12 education as well. The governor and our legislators have cut funding for public education, forcing school districts to make choices that have negative impacts on our children and our future. Budget cuts have caused forty-three Arizona school districts to move from the traditional five-day school week to a four-day week in an effort to cut costs as state support for public education has decreased in the past several years. Today, Arizona districts make up one-third of all the four-day week districts in the nation.[iv] Whatever advantages a four-day school week may offer districts and their employees, it must be recognized that when children are not in school one day per week, their working parents must arrange for child care; another tax of sorts.
The no new taxes pledge sells well; it has popular appeal. It isn’t however, reality and the public needs to wake up and smell the garbage. The slight of hand trick has been working – how much longer it works is up to us.