News and Updates

If more evidence was needed to support the idea of donor privacy and anonymous speech in elections, the reaction by the left against the ‘Invest in Ed’ and ‘Outlaw Dirty Money’ court rulings should settle it.

It’s been two weeks since the Arizona Supreme Court barred both ballot measures from appearing on the ballot, and the backers of both measures are now waging a campaign to target and harass anyone that supported the legal challenge.

Angry activists and various labor unions began a coordinated effort to protest outside of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and any other private group that participated in exposing the legal flaws and signature issues with both measures. Appropriately named “Fightbacknews” chronicles on their website how these protests were designed to go after not just the private non-profit entities, but to “out” every business or individual that dared to oppose their agenda.

Social media groups supportive of Invest in Ed and Outlaw Dirty Money have been openly discussing strategies to expand their intimidation campaign, both now and in the future. And since the issues they are championing—education funding and donor disclosure—are generally supported by the establishment/liberal media, news outlets have ignored the deployment of these thug tactics to target political free speech. This is especially ironic, since anonymous speech has been the cornerstone of almost all reporting (and even entire books) by the mainstream media since Donald Trump became president.

None of this is really new. Efforts to target people for their political beliefs has intensified in recent years, often with an assist from government officials and politicians. Mozilla CEO Brandon Eich was forced to resign after furious attacks against him for his support of Prop 8 defining marriage between one man and one woman. Prosecutors in Wisconsin launched a corrupt investigation targeting conservative donors that was finally shut down by the Supreme Court last year. And no one should forget the IRS targeting of conservative groups that finally ended with a large payout to victims and an apology from the agency.

That is what makes efforts such as Outlaw Dirty Money so dangerous. Private citizens should have a right to support causes and issues they believe in without fear of harassment, intimidation or retaliation. Donor privacy is crucial to free speech, and is essential to promoting open dialogue on critical issues. If government or angry social media mobs are allowed to dictate the terms of “debate”, it will lead to far worse outcomes than not knowing the identify of a donor to an organization with whom you might disagree.

Rather than looking to target individuals or businesses engaging in political speech, a better approach would be to encourage more speech and let voters make decisions for themselves.  Since corporate and individual political spending is evenly split between the two parties, it’s not as if either side has an unfair advantage. Let’s look to promote our 1st Amendment rights, not target people who try to exercise it.

 

The Washington DC Labor Unions financing Proposition 207 told voters that the tax increase on small businesses included in their measure would only be 4.46 percent. Turns out that the actual tax hike will be 98 percent and will give Arizona the 4th highest small business tax in the country.

They also told voters that the proposition would only impact a small percentage of taxpayers. This turned out to be another lie, as it was revealed that the measure would eliminate the annual inflation indexing of Arizona’s income tax brackets. The inflation tax hike on low and middle-income Arizonans will be a $49 million hit in the first year and will growth exponentially over time.

Not shockingly, the proposition includes another tax increase on Arizonans that they failed to disclose.

Last year, when Congress passed the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many significant reforms were made to streamline the federal tax code including capping various deductions and broadening the tax base.  Essentially, this had the effect of simplifying the tax code for most filers while giving most Arizonans a federal tax cut.

However, since Arizona pegs our tax code to the Federal code (Federal Adjusted Gross Income) as the starting point for preparing state income taxes, the implementation of TCJA in Arizona could increase state income taxes by as much as $300 million dollars on everyone in FY 2020.  To avoid this tax increase, the Legislature needs to modify Arizona’s tax rates to conform and reform with the federal changes.

Unfortunately, this can’t happen if Prop 207 passes.  Because of restrictions on making future changes to voter approved measures in Arizona, implementing simple tweaks to our tax rates so that low income Arizonans aren’t paying more than they should, will be impossible.   The only alternative will be to use special carve-outs and targeted tax breaks to avoid the conformity tax hike, which means a more complicated and frustrating tax code that only accountants and tax attorneys will enjoy.

The out of state groups that poured millions into our state to push their ‘Invest in Ed’ plan should not be given the benefit of the doubt that the deceptive language and hidden tax increases were unintentional. This is by design, with the hope that voters won’t discover these “surprises” until it is too late. We will know in November if they are able to get away with it.

 

 

By: Tom Patterson

Initiatives are a poor way to craft public policy. Voters like them. They jealously guard their right to pass laws directly. But they rarely go to the trouble of informing themselves in any detail, so they’re susceptible to slogans like “clean elections”, “it’s for the children” and “support our firefighters“.

Laws passed at the ballot box don’t undergo a vetting or refining process. They’re written by advocates with no input from opponents. Since they’re not subject to debate or amendment, they’re fraught with unintended consequences and unclear or unknown provisions.

Worst of all, under Arizona’s Voter Protection Act (also passed by voters), laws approved by the initiative process, for practical purposes, can never be changed by the legislature, no matter how unsuitable they may prove out.  There’s a reason our founders gave us a republic rather than direct democracy.

Decisions made by ill-informed of voters can be catastrophic.  In 2000, an initiative was passed to increase Medicaid coverage for non-disabled childless adults. The proponents insisted that the funding would come entirely from tobacco settlement funds and federal subsidies, but that’s not how the proposition was written.

Nevertheless, the state Supreme Court refused to force them to tell the truth in the “impartial” official publicity pamphlet. Voters approved the measure believing they would be held harmless financially. Taxpayers still pay hundreds of millions each year for that one.

This year‘s InvestinEd maybe one of the most thoughtless initiatives ever. The promise to voters this time is that they can “soak the rich” and boost education funding with no consequences to themselves.

Top income tax rates on incomes over $250,000 ($500,000 for couples) would go from 4.54 to 9 percent. According to advocates, that’s a mere 4.46 increase in the top tax rates, but the actual increase in taxes paid is more like 76 to 98 percent.

What’s the discrepancy? Ask yourself if you pay taxes of $1000 on $20,000 in income one year and next year pay $2000 on the same income, how much did your taxes go up? 100 percent of course even though your tax rate moved only from 5 to 10 percent.

It turns out that InvestinEd‘s goal of soaking the “rich“ is more like soaking job-creating entrepreneurs. In Arizona, most small businesses are organized as S-corps or LLCs, business entities in which income is “passed through” to the individual owner. Small business profits are taxed at personal income tax rates.

The effect of InvestinEd would be to saddle Arizona with the fourth highest small business tax in the nation, up from 38th.  Ironically, states these days are desperately trying to convince entrepreneurs that they are “open for business”.  Our competitor states must be thrilled.

Here’s another irony. InvestinEd not only soaks the rich, it soaks all taxpayers. That’s the result of an apparent drafting error (see above re: unintended consequences) that eliminated indexing of income tax brackets for all taxpayers.

In 2014, the Legislature authorized indexing of tax brackets so that we wouldn’t pay more taxes just because of inflation. InvestinEd, as written, eliminates all indexing back to 2014. That means all taxpayers would be exposed to higher tax rates. Taxpayers would pay $49 million more in the first year and that’s sure to grow.

Arizona voters should also ponder the implications of becoming a high tax state (our income tax would be fifth highest) in the light of recent federal changes limiting the deduction of state taxes. Productive

taxpayers are fleeing high tax states while those states are straining to reduce their tax burden. Raising our taxes $690 million under the circumstances defies common sense.

Arizonans should learn from real life basket cases like Illinois and Connecticut. Dominating government employee unions successfully insisted on spending levels that required tax increases.  But more spending is always demanded, and taxes repeatedly raised. The tax base erodes and the weakened economy stumbles.  Eventually it’s too late to reverse course.

The Voter Protection Act doubles down on the risk.  It ensures that any mistakes made can never be undone. Punitive tax rates and stifled growth will be permanent.

We too can join the states threatened with bankruptcy. Don’t do it.

Former Lawmaker Tom Patterson is a retired emergency physician.  He was a state senator from 1989-1998; serving as senate majority leader from 1993-96.   He is the author of Arizona’s original charter school bill and was Chairman of The Goldwater Institute from 2000-2013.



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