If you enjoy using the internet, prepare to hide your wallet. A coalition of cities throughout Arizona have announced their intention to impose massive new tax increases on a wide array of currently untaxed digital products, targeting popular streaming services and applications such as Apple iCloud, LegalZoom and Pandora.

This outrageous plan to tax everything on the internet manifested itself from good faith legislation introduced at the Capitol earlier this year to clarify what digital products should (and should not) be taxed. Arizona law has been silent on the issue, and the Department of Revenue has struggled to develop rules to differentiate digital goods from digital services, which is an important distinction since Arizona has historically not taxed services.

HB 2479 and SB 1392 were introduced after lengthy bipartisan discussions that included input from the private sector and taxing entities, including the cities. The conclusion from those meetings was that taxing online digital services was a terrible idea that was contrary to legal precedent and would put Arizona at a competitive disadvantage, since most other states do not tax similar internet products.

Yet the allure of new revenue from internet taxation has led the League of Cities and Towns to oppose both bills. They have made it clear that no restrictions should be placed on their internet taxing powers, a radical position that could lead to digital goods and services becoming one of the MOST taxed items in Arizona. Even more stunning is that their plan is likely illegal and would violate federal law.

This is not an issue that lawmakers can remain on the sidelines. If local governments get their way, internet users will be hammered with a slew of new taxes, while digital startups and capital investment will be driven to other states much friendlier to the tech industry.

Action must be taken soon to protect taxpayers and slam the door shut on the digital internet tax. We urge everyone to contact your lawmakers to vote YES on HB 2479 and SB 1392.

Each year there is a constant debate at the Legislature centered around a bevy of bills that preempt the authority of local government.

For the most part, the proponents of “local control” for cities and counties hang their hat on the explanation that the superior government is always the one closer to the people. This argument it is rarely explored, explained, or expounded upon further than a convenient slogan meant to excuse government overreach and conflate the idea of federalism with granting more power to local government.

And that is the crux of the dispute. In virtually every case when state lawmakers have decided to preempt local government, the debate has not been about how much power the state should have, but whether more autonomy and freedom should be granted to individuals, families, and businesses. Indeed, if cities were truly concerned with having the most local entity be in control, they would be fighting for the individual.

Instead, advocates for more local power continue to make the absurd claim that cities deserve the same relationship the States share with the Federal Government. This flawed argument ignores that fact that, unlike the States that created the federal government, cities and counties are political subdivisions of Arizona. Any authority that they do have has either been expressly delegated to them through state law or the constitution. Even the State Supreme Court ruled that (with one very narrow exception) local governments are not sovereign entities and must adhere to Arizona law.

Furthermore, attempting to elevate local governments in Arizona to the same status enjoyed by States in the US Constitution is a poor argument for more local power and demonstrates a philosophical misunderstanding of federalism. As expressed in the bill of rights and Declaration of Independence, America was founded on the idea that rights belong to the people, and that government remains the biggest threat to protecting those rights.  If politicians decide to use their power to infringe on those freedoms, the geographic distance of that government is inconsequential.  After all, is local tyranny better than state or federal tyranny?

It also cannot be ignored that in crafting a constitution of limited enumerated powers, the States granted the Federal Government the authority to regulate interstate commerce. This was a wise inclusion as it was a bulwark against states implementing protectionist laws that would infringe upon the free travel and commerce of citizens throughout the country.

Arizona’s constitutional framework similarly allows state lawmakers to oversee and regulate intrastate commerce in order to protect individuals and businesses operating in different jurisdictions.  It was never the intent to allow cities to create a patchwork of onerous and inconsistent business regulations on issues such as minimum wage, plastic bags or bans on no-impact home-based businesses. When these situations do arise, it is the obligation of our state policymakers to step in and intervene.

It is high time that the local control argument be unpacked and receive the intellectual scrutiny it deserves.  There have been too many instances where the local control defense has been used to justify freedom crushing eminent domain abuse, suppress voter turnout, and to infringe upon our free speech rights.  If we are to argue for local control, let that control be divested to individuals, families, and businesses.  After all, the spirit of America is not city council-determination, but self-determination.

A liberal San Francisco billionaire has decided to bring his radical environmentalist agenda to Arizona. Earlier this month a group called NextGen announced their plans to fund a ballot initiative to amend our state constitution requiring utility providers generate at least 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Of course, this mandate won’t affect the backers of the measure, since NextGen is a California-based organization funded by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. It doesn’t matter to him or NextGen that draconian renewable energy mandates will harm hardworking families and small businesses in Arizona. They like the idea that rural communities will pay a steep price as a result of sky high energy prices and hefty job losses due to the shuttering of Arizona’s coal power plants.

The intellectual dishonesty surrounding this measure is offensive. Though the media loves to paint Mr. Steyer as an altruistic “climate change crusader,” they continually ignore the fact that his lucrative hedge fund is heavily invested in the solar industry. It’s Steyer’s right to invest in any company he wants but forcing people to use solar through renewable mandates that pad his bottom line is corporate welfare at its worst.

Making the initiative even more destructive is their definition of renewable energy does NOT include nuclear power.  This means that one of our most reliable, sustainable and clean sources of power (Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station) would not count toward the mandate. Instead, our grid would be forced to transition toward costly, unreliable sources such as wind and solar. Compliance with the 50 percent mandate is anticipated to result in an average utility rate increase of $500 per year for Arizona families.

Just as absurd, the language exempts Salt River Project (Arizona’s second largest utility) from the energy mandate. Apparently, NextGen and Tom Steyer believe that SRP customers are ‘cleaner’ than other utility customers, and therefore will still be allowed to purchase cheap conventional power though everyone else is stuck picking up the tab. This is grossly unfair, and likely was done to reduce their political opposition at the ballot box.

The reality is this measure isn’t about improving our environment or making Arizona healthier. This is a power play by wealthy California interests that see our state as an easy target for their liberal ideas. To them, spending a couple million dollars sneaking their renewable mandate into Arizona’s constitution is a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions Steyer has spent the last two election cycles throughout the country.

NextGen doesn’t have any real grassroots support, so they have brought in an out of state paid circulator firm to canvass our streets to collect the necessary 225,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. We urge Arizona residents when they see these hired guns to not sign their petition and tell NextGen to take their liberal ideas back to California.

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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.