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Four months have passed since the enactment of federal tax reform, and Arizona workers and taxpayers continue to be rewarded with new raises, bonuses and expanded benefits. As of April 30th, over $215 Million dollars has now been put back into the pockets of Arizona workers and ratepayers as a result of federal tax reform.

Here is a list of Arizona companies that have rewarded employees with additional pay and benefits:

  • American and Southwest Airlines announced $1,000 bonuses for their nearly 15,000 employees in celebration of the GOP tax plan.
  • CEO Bob Parsons handed out $1.3 million in bonuses to his 725 employees at YAM Worlwide.
  • AT&T and Comcast provided $1,000 bonuses to hundreds in their Arizona workforce.
  • Bank of America will be giving $1,000 bonuses to their 10,000 Arizona employees that make up to $150,000 in total compensation.
  • Boeing has committed to $300 million to charitable investments, workforce training and infrastructure improvements benefiting their 3,600 Arizona employees.
  • Nationwide announced $1,000 bonuses and an increase of their 401(k)-matching contribution for their 1,900 Arizona employees.
  • Wells Fargo, with over 15,000 Arizona employees, announced the establishment of a $15 minimum wage, $400 million in charitable donations and $100 million in additional capital investment.
  • Wal-Mart has committed to providing their 35,000 Arizona employees a guaranteed minimum wage of $11/hour and bonuses up to $1,000.
  • APS announced that they intent to slash $119 Million from their utility rates, which would save the average homeowner $56 each year.
  • Verizon will provide 50 shares of restricted stock (valued at $53/share) to their 2,800 Arizona employees, a total value exceeding $7 Million dollars.
  • JP Morgan Chase will be giving a $750 bonus to their 10,000 Arizona employees and raise starting wages from $15 to $18 an hour.
  • Waste Management, Inc. is providing $2,000 bonuses to nearly 2,000 Arizona Employees that do not participate in a sales incentive or bonus plan.
  • Meridian Bank increased their base wage to $15/hour, increased charitable contributions and capital spending and added 20% to existing bonuses.
  • Comerica Bank will provide $1,000 bonuses to their 100+ Arizona non-officer employees and raised their base wage to $15/hour.
  • Home Depot announced bonuses up to $1,000 for its 10,000 Arizona employees
  • Western Alliance provided bonuses, pay raises and an increase in their 401(k)-matching contribution for their 700 Arizona employees.
  • Washington Federal, which has nearly 200 Arizona employees, has committed to 5% merit increases for employees making less than $100k and an substantial increase of training programs for their workers.
  • Starbucks announced pay raises, expanded benefits and company stock (valued at $500 for shop workers, $2,000 for managers) to their 4,000 Arizona employees.
  • FedEx, with 3,700 Arizona employees, will be giving bonuses, pay raises and a voluntary $1.5 Billion contribution to their company pension plan.
  • Honeywell has committed to boosting their 401(k)-match for its 8,000 Arizona employees.
  • U-Haul will be providing bonuses ranging from $500 to $1,200 for their 3,800 employees.
  • Lowe’s has committed to providing their 4,000 Arizona employees bonuses up to $1,000, expanded benefits and maternity leave and $5,000 in adoption assistance.
  • Chipotle is providing bonuses ranging from $250 to $1,000 for their Arizona employees
  • McDonald’s announced a tuition assistance program for their 16,000 Arizona Employees ranging from $2,500 to $3,000.
  • Cox Communications, with over 3,200 Arizona Employees, will be receiving bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.

In total, over 125,000 Arizona workers are on the receiving end of bonuses, pay raises and other benefits thanks to the business tax cuts. Combined with the individual income tax reductions that will show up on paychecks next month, the direct financial benefit for Arizona taxpayers as a result of tax reform will be over $1 Billion dollars in 2018.

The Club will continue to expand the list of AZ companies rewarding their employees with bonuses, pay raises and benefits. If you know of a company not on the list, please email info@azfree.org so that the Club can include the good news on our tax cut victory tally.

For years advocates for light rail have been trying to convince the legislature to allow Maricopa County to extend the 1/2 cent transportation sales tax (currently set to expire in 2025) to include billions more for light rail. They know that they can’t pass light rail by itself, so they have been looking for ways to sneak it by lawmakers by tying it to other more popular transportation projects.

Their solution is SB 1147, a poorly crafted transportation omnibus bill that would eliminate the statutory spending caps on how much money can go toward light rail and other wasteful transit projects. The bill would also remove the requirements that funding go toward freeways and other regional roads, unnecessarily create duplicative and confusing new statutes for rural counties and allow new tax hikes to be considered on off-cycle election dates that are notorious for low voter turnout.

The evidence that light rail and similar fixed line transit is a bad deal for taxpayers is overwhelming. In 2017, the Free Enterprise Club published a study on the future of transportation policy in Maricopa County and the value of light rail in the Phoenix Metro Area. The conclusion was that light rail is a bad deal for taxpayers, commuters, non-politically connected landowners and anyone else that relies on the current bus transit system. Additionally, a cursory review of the wild-eyed economic development claims being made by proponents of rail are easily disproven as well.

The most critical facts when considering light rail include:

  • Light rail will NOT reduce traffic congestion–it will INCREASE traffic congestion

A common myth pushed by proponents of light rail is that it will help in getting people off the roads and into public transit. The fact is that light rail will increase traffic congestion, and there are a couple of reasons for this. First, the only way to accommodate the new rail line will be to remove street lanes currently used by automobiles. And since street lanes can move more traffic per hour than light rail, congestion will be greater along the line. Secondly, since the rail line is moving at street grade, it will have to receive priority at every traffic light. This will disrupt signal coordination systems, spreading the disruption well beyond the light rail intersections. That is why every independent traffic analysis that has been done concludes that light rail increases traffic congestion.

  • Light rail will NOT increase transit ridership and will HURT bus ridership

Another argument made by the light rail lobby is that building light rail will increase transit ridership. The fact is most light rail passengers are either individuals who already use transit or passengers who were forced onto light rail when existing bus service along the rail line was eliminated. Additionally, since rail costs substantially more to operate than buses, over time light rail will crowd out bus service and will result in a reduction of bus lines in the Phoenix metro area.

This is not speculation—this exact scenario has played out in every city that has built light rail. For proof, here is a chart showing transit ridership in the Phoenix metro area since 2000, courtesy of Valley Metro:

As can be seen by the chart, transit ridership was increasing steadily from 2000 to 2008, prior to light rail opening. After light rail opened, bus ridership began to plummet and is now at levels not seen since 2003. Even more troubling, after a decade of growth annual transit ridership has been in decline.  The 2017 figures were just released and annual transit ridership is now LOWER than when light rail opened in 2009.

  • The Economic Development Claims are False

Knowing that light rail cannot be defended for reducing congestion or increasing transit ridership, advocates usually pivot to the claim that rail should be built since it promotes economic development.  This claim is easily disproven as well. After a careful analysis of the figures provided by Valley Metro, the Club proved that most of the economic development credited to light rail was either “planned or committed” development, projects that had nothing to do with rail (like the Phoenix Convention Center) or were projects that never occurred.

After discrediting their figures in 2015, Valley Metro released a new analysis, now claiming that billions in constructed projects have occurred because of light rail. How did they reach this conclusion? Valley Metro is now assuming that light rail is responsible for ALL economic development that occurs within 1/2 mile of the rail line. Since the rail line is 26 miles long, that means they are including 26 SQUARE MILES within their analysis. The idea that light rail is responsible for all economic development in an area the size of Queen Creek is laughable.

  • SB 1147 Ignores the Blossoming Self-Driving Transportation Revolution in our own Backyard

The final nail in the coffin for light rail is that it is more likely than not that drastic advancements in autonomous vehicles will render the service useless and unused. Thanks to Governor Ducey, Arizona has become a leader in promoting and developing self-driving technology, and it is anticipated that such cars will be available to the public in the next five years. The idea that we are going to commit billions to human-operated, fixed line rail through 2045 when the technology will be beyond obsolete would be a huge mistake.

If lawmakers believe there is a need to update our existing transportation statutes or even consider extending the Maricopa County transportation tax, policy makers should make sure that the money is used on productive transportation projects that include plenty of transparency and oversight. Without drastic changes to SB 1147, the bill will remain a train wreck for taxpayers.

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.



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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.