If music were to be piped in during this legislative session I think an excellent choice would be Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On;” at least as it pertains to republican legislators and proposed tax increases.
First, we had the republican legislators’ outrage over the veto of the Tax Conformity bill which they could and should have passed last session to ensure the governor’s signature on President Trump’s tax relief. Next is the attempt to repeal the motor vehicle “fee” the republican legislature imposed last session but only because an unelected bureaucrat set the tax too high. With apologizes to Shakespeare, in this case a rose by any other name does not smell as sweet.
Here are some additional republican tax bills to watch this session.
SCR1001 and HCR2024, whose prime sponsors are republican Sen. Sylvia Allen and Rep. Michelle Udall respectively, propose to refer to the voters an increase of “Prop 301” sales tax to a full cent. In full disclosure, in 2017 as superintendent, I did talk about this as one possible way for the legislature to increase teacher pay. However that was long before teachers walked out on our kids and were rewarded with the “20% by 2020” pay increase. Nonetheless, neither resolution would have passed out of committee without the support of republican legislators – Sens. Brophy McGee, Boyer, Gray and Reps. Carroll, Shope and Townsend.
Additionally there is HB2109 which doubles the amount of excise tax the counties can impose. The sponsor of the bill is republican Rep. T.J. Shope. The bill passed out of Ways and Means with the unanimous support of the republican Reps. Cobb, Dunn, Grantham, Bolick, Toma and Reps. Biasiucci, Campbell, Payne and Thorpe on the Transportation committee.
Then there is HB2536 which proposes to more than double AZ fuel taxes. This bill’s prime sponsor is republican Rep. Noel Campbell with support from republican Reps. Payne, Thorpe, Biasiucci, Dunn, and Toma.
Next we have HB2702 a new online sales tax whose prime sponsor is republican Rep. Ben Toma; 14 of the 24 co-sponsors are republican. With republican Reps. Dunn, Osborne, Bolick supporting the sponsor in committee voting.
Last but not least is SB1217 sponsored by republican Sen. Heather Carter which creates a new “AZ High School Graduate” university and community college tuition in addition to in-state and out-of-state rates. While not a tax increase this brings us back full circle to where we started SCR1001 and HCR2024. If this tax increase is referred to and approved by the voters it will be allocated by statute as currently proposed in HB2563.
Under HB2563 (as amended) the universities will receive $158 million in new funding to support – wait for it – tuition. Community college districts will receive new, additional funding of $40 million. Is it a coincidence that there is a newly defined tuition and huge, new allocations proposed for universities and community colleges? Will this tax increase ultimately end up supporting the new tuition? That is unclear at this point but SB1217 passed with the support of senate republicans Boyer and Brophy McGee.
Will all these tax increases make it to the finish line? Only time will tell. However I have heard many of these same republicans, as candidates, state they do not support adding or increasing taxes. If they are willing to consider doing so then it is reasonable to expect they honestly explain under what circumstances when asking for our votes, not just doing so after the fact. Sometimes it seems that the only tax increases republicans oppose are those proposed by democrats or only when they are on the campaign trail. Maybe we should start playing John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” at our LD meetings.