Investigative Report Exposes Arizona $13.7 Billion In Tax Carve-Outs

Screen shots of Arizona legislators hobnobbing at the Capitol [Images captured from Facebook]

An article by Jim Small and Evan Wyloge for the Arizona Center for Investigative Journalism, The cost of cuts: Arizona tax carve-outs last year hit $13.7B, examines “how much tax revenue the state doesn’t collect each year.” Questions about those monies arose during floor debates regarding lead in our schools’ water supplies, and teacher pay this Legislative Session.

According to Small and Wyloge’s article, “In fiscal year 2016, state law allowed $13.7 billion in taxes to go uncollected through a litany of exemptions, deductions, allowances, exclusions or credits. And that number is likely to grow by another $1-to-2 billion once individual income tax deductions are tallied.”

The reporters note that “data compiled by the Arizona Department of Revenue, more than half of all state taxes haven’t been collected for at least the past ten years. Called “tax expenditures,” they amount to $136.5 billion since fiscal year 2007 – roughly equivalent to sum of state budgets spanning the past 15 years.”

It was during one floor debate, that Rep. Pamela Powers-Hannley put those “tax expenditures” into perspective. While she acknowledged that the “state of Arizona needs additional funds to function properly,” it does not need to raise taxes in order to take care of our schools and pay our teachers what they deserve.

“We’re not broke,” said Powers-Hannley. “Our budget is tight because we give away too much tax money. Statutory tax cuts have increased dramatically from 5 in the early 1980s to 331 today. We give away more than $13 billion a year in tax cuts, tax credits, and tax subtractions. The biggest chunk is $12 billion a year in discounted, excused, or rebated TPT. In addition, the budget includes $106 million in debt service.”

2013 – 2016 tax expenditures by type – To View 2007 – 2016 visit the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting here

AIRCRAFT LICENSE TAX EXPENDITURES $5,032,946 $4,985,055 $5,237,479 $5,509,385
AVIATION FUEL TAX EXPENDITURES $162,479 $149,151 $200,361 $63,474
BINGO TAX EXPENDITURES $73,028 $70,960 $72,180 RANGE: $9,894 – 122,848
CORPORATE INCOME TAX EXPENDITURES $133,477,546 $132,899,546 $460,328,800 $114,379,124
FIDUCIARY INCOME TAX EXPENDITURES $53,703,660 $32,067,130 $25,482,180 $16,238,279
FLIGHT PROPERTY TAX EXPENDITURES $2,536,654 $939,316 $1,160,836 $900,812
INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX EXPENDITURES $375,651,568 $310,643,144 $2,233,441,000 $255,280,000
INSURANCE PREMIUM TAX EXPENDITURES $241,218,934 $242,399,848 $192,143,864 $205,251,402
JET FUEL EXCISE AND USE TAX EXPENDITURES $6,164,499 $6,635,958 $5,131,667 $6,213,031
LUXURY TAX EXPENDITURES $14,597,098 $38,433,557 $23,095,734 $440,305,626
MOTOR CARRIER FEE EXPENDITURES $157,993,764 $153,633,293 $146,508,936 $143,829,818
MOTOR VEHICLE FUEL TAX EXPENDITURES $12,446,181 $10,974,015 $9,159,048 $9,250,359
PARI-MUTUEL TAX EXPENDITURES $3,775,986 $4,016,340 $4,032,441 $4,126,235
PRIVATE CAR PROPERTY TAX EXPENDITURES $384,354 $312,407 $425,322 $408,268
PROPERTY TAX EXPENDITURES $403,693,834 $377,979,585 $359,909,184 $328,874,395
SEVERANCE TAX EXPENDITURES $15,196,006 $24,862,000 $26,190,000 $29,829,000
TRANSACTION PRIVILEGE AND USE TAX EXPENDITURES $12,262,397,152 $12,212,283,076 $12,611,204,000 $12,107,810,000
USE FUEL TAX EXPENDITURES $45,731,318 $43,621,085 $45,526,448 $44,186,840
WORKERS‰Ûª COMPENSATION PREMIUM LIEU TAX EXPENDITURES $1,251,000 $1,809,939 $4,995,967 $2,180,526
TOTAL $13,735,491,517 $13,598,718,735 $16,154,247,840 $13,714,637,354
House Ways and Means Vote

Powers-Hannley was not the only lawmaker who questioned the carve outs, according to Small and Wyloge. SB1144 was introduced by Sen. Steve Farley this year. SB1144 would have changed the name of the Joint Legislative Income Tax Credit Review Committee to the Joint Legislative Tax Expenditure Review Committee. That Committee would be tasked to “review each TPT and use tax expenditure to determine whether it should be amended, retained or repealed.”

Referring to the budget filled with questionable line items including $250,000 for horse breeders, Powers-Hannley questioned what the Republican lawmakers were doing. “Today, the majority party voted to give away millions more with no discussion regarding where that money will come from,” said Powers-Hannley. “In addition, the majority party also voted to allow the university system to take on more debt to build buildings—with no discussion regarding the consequences of additional debt or other future university needs.”

“Yes, our budget is technically balanced—taking in $9.7 billion and spending $9.8,” explained Powers-Hannley. “But in reality, Arizona is “upside down on its mortgage.” We are giving away more money than we are spending to run the state. I think it’s time to back away from the buffet. If we want quality education and a solid infrastructure, it’s time to take a good hard look at the tax cuts, tax credits, and tax subtractions.”

The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 28 – 2 in the Senate and narrowly passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee. As expected, the bill appears to have been killed in the House under the leadership of  Speaker J.D. Mesnard.

3 Comments on "Investigative Report Exposes Arizona $13.7 Billion In Tax Carve-Outs"

  1. No wonder we are a poor state, our education is poor as well. Our public schools are a mess starting with TUSD, although other school districts are doing better. We are supporting thousands of illegal aliens, and no one and I mean no one, can tell me different. Our hospitals have been swamped by unpaid hospital care for illegal aliens. The little pet projects of our BOS and foolish spending by the Tucson clowncil. What a mess!
    What a crime, and I don’t care which political party is responsible it needs to stop. That’s why I have encouraged my graduating student to move where she might have a better living and the future family she will have. If an opportunity arises she should seriously consider it.
    We need to have an oversight committee, an honest one.

  2. Working Man Blues | May 9, 2017 at 7:26 am |

    While government at all levels (city state and national) have been picking winners and losers through their byzantine tax code and should be stopped so it is a level playing field for all market participants, all I have to know is Ms Powers Hannley is a progressive democrat. Don’t come across like a fiscal hawk to justify your big government tax and spend agenda. State aid to public education in Az is a real problem, however school districts like TUSD take state aid and chew it up in bureaucratic nonsense. Top heavy inefficient districts must be reigned in or you might as well throw gas on the fire.

  3. Extorting money from hapless citizens has become a high-art. Arizona isn’t alone in this effort – look at IL, NY, CT, NJ – the list goes on and on. And, of course, we can’t leave CA off the list; our former governor, Nappy, is in hot water with their auditors over her management of the funds under her University Chancellor administration. But, then, no one is surprised, are they?

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