|2016 (As of 10/13/16)|
Rep. Mark Finchem ruffled a few feathers this month when he filed a request with the Arizona Attorney General to open an investigation into the alleged destruction of guns by the City of Tucson in violation of Arizona statute. If the allegations are true, the City of Tucson could lose its share of state sales tax revenue.
Mismanagement has forced the Tucson City Council to call this month for an increase in its regressive sales tax. Tucson’s current 2 percent sales tax is capped by the City’s charter. A change of the charter requires voter approval. The City Council hopes voters will approve an increase of the 2 percent tax, which impacts the poor to a greater extent, by ½ percent.
Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham during his re-election race said the City was broke. “We’ve cut all the fat there is,” said Cunningham.
Yet, it appears that City officials are willing to risk the $177 million in shared revenue by ignoring Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3108.
A.R.S. 13-3108 provides the state with the right to regulate firearms. Section F specifically prohibits “any agency or political subdivision of this state and any law enforcement agency in this state” from facilitating “the destruction of a firearm or purchase or otherwise acquire a firearm for the purpose of destroying the firearm…”
Finchem claims that he called for the investigation at the request of constituents. Finchem’s critics have speculated that he alone wanted an accounting. However, given the fact that even many of the most liberal residents of Tucson own guns, and in the FY 2017 budget the City received $177.7 million, it isn’t hard to imagine that many residents are clamoring for the City not to risk losing money by destroying guns.
It is tough to ask the working poor for a sales tax increase while risking $177.7 million.
“I filed a public records request with the City of Tucson to obtain all records related to the destruction of firearms that had significant market value, some of which had significant collectable value in excess of $10,000. Under ARS 13-3108(F), which is part of Arizona’s criminal statutes, the majority of these firearms are treated as a public asset and should have been auctioned off to the highest bidder after a proper records and background check. The proceeds of the sales would have gone to the City of Tucson general fund”, said Rep. Finchem in a press release.
“Aside from the appearance that the City of Tucson flagrantly violated state statutes and deprived the taxpayers of the opportunity to obtain fair-market value of a public asset, it is clear that the City did not provide all of the documentation sought in the records request since policies, emails, and other written communications are missing from the records delivered to my office,” continued Finchem.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik claims the statute is unconstitutional and as a result supports the continued violation of it. Kozachik, who is a fan of controlling nearly everything but his own bodily functions, appears to revel in power struggles with the state.
Unfortunately for Kozachik, the City can’t violate any law it wants unless it is willing to pay the price of a violation. Because the court has generally sided with the state, and a challenge would be costly in both attorney fees and loss of shared revenue perhaps it would be wiser to examine how much money the City is spending on lobbyists. If Kozachik’s view is widely accepted, then a repeal of the offending statute should not be that tough, and would be much cheaper in the long run.