Scot Mussi

The Club has long been a proponent of consolidated elections, by which all elections are held in August or November of even numbered years. The purpose of consolidating election dates is to increase voter participation and to end the practice by some local governments of holding elections in March or May in order to avoid much needed scrutiny.

The first step toward this goal occurred in 2012 when the legislature passed HB2826 that required municipalities to hold candidate elections on the same dates as statewide elections. The increase in voter turnout was immediate:

  • In the three election cycles prior to candidate election consolidation, voter turnout in Maricopa County never exceeded 26%, with average turnout around 20%.
  • After consolidation in 2014 and 2016, Maricopa County turnout was never below 26% and was as high as 74% in the most recent election.

Increased voter turnout is one benefit of reform.  Consolidated elections save tax payers money.  When cities hold theirs separate from the state they incur significant additional expenses in printing, voter education, notifications, facilities and staff costs, and postage.  The City of Scottsdale moved to consolidate their elections two years prior to the state enacting its legislation.  For them it was dollars that made sense – after amending their charter to consolidate their election in 2008 – the city saved their residents $110,000 in their 2010 election.

Given the proven success of higher voter participation and lower costs with the 2012 reforms, Representative Kevin Payne (D21) introduced HB2495, which would require that any proposed sales tax increase be voted on consolidated election dates as well.  In other words, if a city desires to increase their local sales tax, the vote would have to occur in November of even numbered years.

Opponents to reform (local government and various special interests) cite the same arguments against consolidation that they have used for years. Moving elections mean local issues will compete for time, attention, resources, and ballot real estate with state and national races and matters.  That somehow voters are better served when they can study these issues in isolation and are not “fatigued” by a long ballot, perhaps abandoning the “local issues” at the bottom of the ballot.

They are now using the bizarre claim that HB 2495 would imperil local government if there is an emergency and a new tax hike is needed.  Aside from the general absurdity of an “emergency tax,” cities already have the authority to pass a tax increase without voter approval by a majority vote of their elected body.  Mayors and Councilmembers, if they truly believe a tax increase is necessary, are free to vote for one, devoid of the political cover of “the will of the voters.”

Consolidated elections have been studied by historians, scholars and policymakers across the political and ideological spectrum, all reaching the same conclusion.  Off-cycle elections in practice (and by design) reduce voter turnout and benefit organized special interest groups.  No matter the political bent, organizations who stand to benefit most, are strategically served by low voter turnout.  Organized groups are more likely to know about an off-cycle election that enriches themselves and their turnout has a much greater general impact on the overall election.

HB2495 is good public policy and deserves a YES vote.  Consolidated elections have proven time and again to increase voter turnout, reduce costs and provides predictability and consistency to voters.

As was reported last week, the Arizona Coyotes and the NHL sent a letter to the State Legislature notifying lawmakers that if they do not agree to provide $225M in taxpayer money for a new hockey arena, they are going to leave Arizona for icier pastures.

The shakedown letter was an astonishing (some would consider desperate) maneuver by the team and the NHL, especially since it exposed the truth that the Arizona Coyotes have been intentionally misleading Glendale taxpayers and elected leaders for over a decade in order to receive unconstitutional subsidies from taxpayers.

This fact was not lost on former Mayor Elaine Scruggs, who penned a scathing letter detailing the history of the Coyotes in Glendale.  Throughout her two page response, Mayor Scruggs cited each broken promise and dishonest claim made by the team as the city poured an estimated $500 million dollars of taxpayer money into the failed endeavor.

For several years, the NHL and Coyotes repeatedly told anyone that would listen that hockey was an economically viable product in Glendale and that the team was not receiving hidden subsidies to cover its operating losses.

The ownership group was well aware of the constitutional, legal, and political issues of a professional sports team receiving direct subsidy payments from taxpayers. In 2010, the Goldwater Institute threatened to sue the city for violating Arizona’s gift clause when it was considering a deal to cover up to $100M in losses if the team didn’t turn a profit. That deal subsequently collapsed.

Three years later a new ownership group came on the scene and negotiated behind closed doors a lucrative 15 year, $225 Million “management agreement” with Glendale.  The team and the city stated publicly that it was a reasonable agreement to operate and manage the taxpayer-financed arena, and was not a clever trick to do an end run around the gift clause.

Now the truth is out. The one-sided agreement was never about managing the arena.  The Coyote’s claims since Glendale lawfully terminated the agreement have been, by their own admission, proven false.  They were not being “evicted” by Glendale or being forced to accept substandard management of the arena. The Coyotes were just mad that they had foolishly violated state law and had the subsidies cut off.

And now the Coyotes and the NHL are pushing Senate Bill 1149, legislation that would give the team 30 acres to develop a taxpayer subsidized arena, hotel, restaurants and bars. They are trying to lure another city into a deal that will keep the subsidies flowing. The Club’s recommendation to taxpayers: you see the Coyotes coming, skate for the exits.

Legislators Say ‘No’ to Refundable Tax Credits

THANK YOU to the legislators who voted on the floor today to oppose HB2492 – a bill that would allow a few large corporations to make their R&D tax credits refundable.

No confusion here, refundable tax credits are direct subsidies to corporations without the complications (transparency) of the appropriations process.   The heroes of the tax payers today were:

Rep. Lela Alston (District 24)
Rep. Richard Andrade (District 29)
Rep. Wenona Benally (District 7)
Rep. Isela Blanc (District 26)
Rep. Rusty Bowers (District 25)
Rep. Kelli Butler (District 28)
Rep. Cesar Chavez (District 29)
Rep. Ken Clark (District 24)
Rep. Eric Descheenie (District 7)
Rep. Kirsten Engel (District 10)
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (District 12)
Rep. Charlene Fernandez (District 4)
Rep. Mark Finchem (District 11)
Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales (District 3)
Rep. Anthony Kern (District 20)
Rep. Jay Lawrence (District 23)
Rep. Vince Leach (District 11)
Rep. Phil Lovas (District 22)
Rep. Ray Martinez (District 30)
Rep. Darin Mitchell (District 13)
Rep. Paul Mosley (District 5)
Rep. Jill Norgaard (District 18)
Rep. Becky Nutt (District 14)
Rep. Kevin Payne (District 21)
Rep. Pamela Powers Hannely (District 9)
Rep. Rebecca Rios (District 27)
Rep. Jesus Rubalcava (District 4)
Rep. Macario Saldate (District 3)
Rep. Athena Salman (District 26)
Rep. David Stringer (District 1)
Rep. Maria Syms (District 28)
Rep. Bob Thorpe (District 6)
Rep. Kelly Townsend (District 16)
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (District 23)
Rep. JD Mesnard (District 17)

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The Arizona Free Enterprise Club is a free market policy and advocacy group dedicated to promoting a strong and vibrant Arizona economy.
  • Ending tax subsidies won’t mean an end to development
  • States competing to hand out subsidies to corporation is a crony capitalist game that taxpayers lose every time
  • Consolidated elections promote voter turnout and more representative government.
  • Victory for taxpayers. House Ways and Means votes down SB 1270, legislation to extend Maricopa County light rail tax for another 20 years.
  • AZ Coyotes asking for $225 million in tax payer subsidies #stopthemadness #