Representing YOU in the Budget

I take seriously my job to represent you in the legislature, and to communicate back what’s happening at the Capitol.  Unfortunately, Republicans have completely excluded Democrats in creating a partisan budget for our state (though we represent almost half the voters).  The centerpiece is a flat tax plan that would give a PERMANENT $1.5 billion annual cut mainly benefitting the wealthiest Arizonans while neglecting our promise of opportunity and a thriving economy for everyone.   Based on what I’m learning from you and many stakeholders, here are the 4 reasons I oppose the flat tax. 

#1: It would give 91% of tax cuts to people in the top 20% of incomes. Earlier this week the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) released a chart showing the impact of Gov Ducey’s proposed flat tax on Arizonans. It reveals that 1.75 million AZ households – including 49% of those in our district would see only about $40 per year savings in state taxes. That equates to about a tank of gas these days. The real winners of this flat tax proposal would be the 1,019 Arizona taxpayers who make $5 million or more each year who would see a tax cut of $350,303.

#2: Working families ALREADY pay more than their fair share in taxes. Everyone should pay their fair share, but Arizona taxpayers with the lowest incomes already pay the highest percentage of their income in taxes. As you can see in this chart, those in the lowest 20% of income pay 13%, while those in the top 1% pay only 5.9% of their income in total taxes (income, property, and sales). While we often hear complaints about the 3.5% Prop 208 surcharge that the wealthiest Arizonans will now pay, the rest of the story is that they pay that surcharge only on TAXABLE income (after many possible deductions) OVER $500,000. The fact is that only 3% of Arizona small businesses will be impacted by the Prop 208 surcharge.

#3: The flat tax could severely cut our police & fire departments.  Because the state has a revenue sharing deal with cities, the Arizona’s $1.5 BILLION cuts would result in enormous losses in local revenue for cities across the state as well. The median impact to city/town budgets was 6.4% with the largest impact being 13%   Ongoing losses to local budgets of 3.5%-13% is extremely challenging, especially when those are on-going cuts. Mayor Kate Gallego recently shared with me that 70% of Phoenix’ budget goes to public safety. These cuts would devastate their ability to keep us all safe, as well as to maintain our roads and other city services.The impact is even worse for towns in rural Arizona. Even if the state agrees to temporarily reduce those losses to cities, it will be increasingly difficult for our state as well as cities across Arizona to provide the services that keep us all safe and growing.

#4: This HUGE, PERMANENT tax cut will handcuff future legislatures long after Gov Ducey is gone, leaving us unable to live within our means. While some claim that this tax cut would spur economic growth, the fact is that Arizona has cut taxes every year since 1990, resulting in $4.4 billion less in annual state revenue already, and the economic benefit has not trickled down to middle and working class families. In fact, the disparity between the wealthy and middle class has only widened – and we’re already unable to meet our promises as a state.

As a result of year after year of tax cuts,

  • Arizona ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil spending, and has among the lowest teacher pay in the country, even after the 20 by 2020 raises . That has led to an extreme teacher shortage, leaving children in over 1800 classrooms with no permanent, qualified teacher.
  • Auditors indicate our Department of Developmental Disabilities alone needs an additional $150 million EVERY YEAR to provide essential services for Arizonans. This budget provides only $30 million – for just THIS year, of course.
  • Roads and infrastructure across Arizona need immediate repairs. A number of road fixes are in this budget, but in other areas of the state, especially on native lands, roads are un-navigable in rainy seasons, keeping students and emergency vehicles from schools, home, or hospitals.  No funds are provided for those roads in this budget
  • The Housing Trust Fund, an effective tool for keeping those just a paycheck away from eviction from falling into homelessness needs to be restored.  I’m appalled to see $0 additional funding this year, especially at at time when so many families have been devastated by the pandemic and rents and housing prices are through the roof.
  • Arizona invests very little in the community colleges and state universities we depend on to prepare the strong, educated workforce we need for a thriving economy. New business people don’t grow on trees –  they grow in our schools, and THAT’s where we need to invest if we truly want to grow our economy.
  • Not enough state employees have had a raise in the past 10 years, making it difficult to attract and keep talent and expertise.
  • Arizona still faces considerable debt we should be paying off.
  • Our state faces a critical water shortage that needs attention at an as-yet unknown cost.

In 1992, voter-approved Prop 108 enacted a constitutional amendment that requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature to increase or add new taxes, thereby making any tax cut essentially permanent. As Director of Children’s Action Alliance David Lujan as well as former Governor Jan Brewer both wrote recently, these deep and permanent tax cuts are short sighted and could decimate our ability to live within our means. I believe it’s especially dangerous to make permanent tax cuts at a time  when so much of our one-time excess revenue is connected to federal pandemic relief, and we don’t know what lies ahead.

The one task required of your legislature is to create a budget. However, because many representatives and senators are NOT on board with these devastating tax cuts, leadership has announced that we will not return to the Capitol to vote on a budget until June 10.  In the meantime, Republican leaders in the House and Senate, as well as Governor Ducey are busy twisting arms.

We need YOU to help stop these dangerous cuts.  Call the Governor’s office and the leadership of both the House and the Senate and make your voice heard. Ask them to create a bipartisan budget that invests in our communities, pays down state debt, and includes a more reasonably-sized tax cut.

Governor Ducey: 602-542-4331
Senate President Karen Fann: 602-926-5874
House Speaker Rusty Bowers: 602-926-3128

As always, please contact me if you have questions or concerns.  Thank you for your support!

Representative from LD20
jSchwiebert@azleg.gov
602-926-3390 (office)
One of our local channels, AZ Family 3TV, has produced an original documentary about how the Justine Spitalny School in the Cartwright District faced the challenges of COVID with their students this year.  It’s a moving testament to the extraordinary, heartfelt work of so many teachers across the state who helped their students through this most challenging year. I highly recommend it!

The Budget May Come to the Floor This Week!

I take seriously the commitment I made  to work together as your representative to ensure that every student gets the quality education they deserve, and all Arizonans get their chance to thrive.

So, I’ve been especially disheartened to find that though both chambers are almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, the state budget, our primary responsibility as legislators, has been constructed in secret (again) this year by members of only the majority party. This past week, previews revealed that it is much more focused on permanent tax cuts of $1.5 billion annually for the wealthy while neglecting our underfunded education system and the promise of opportunity for every citizen.

About 90% of the people in LD20 will not see a DIME as a result of these cuts since they reduce taxes for only those with a household income over $500,000 per year, the group that pays the lowest percentage of their income in state and local taxes already. Everyone should pay their fair share. 

I’m proud to have spent my life in the great state of Arizona. But you know what, great states, just like great people, keep their promises, and we are NOT keeping ours. 

The Arizona Constitution states that “… the legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions…” 

Yet, Arizona ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil spending, and has such an extreme teacher shortage crisis that children in over 1800 classrooms have no permanent qualified teacher. At a time when teen suicides are on the rise, Arizona’s counselor to student ratio ranks at the bottom of the nation. Capital budget cuts to districts have resulted in crumbling buildings and lawsuits. 

During COVID, Governor Ducey promised school districts Education Stability Grants to cover their lost revenue, but districts across the state have only received between 71-26% of promised funds.

Arizona has cut taxes every year since 1990, resulting already in $4.4 billion less in annual state revenue, and the benefit has not yet trickled down to middle and working class families. In fact, the disparity between the wealthy and middle class has only widened. 

To truly grow our economy, we must invest in the people of Arizona.  If we don’t invest in public education, including community colleges and universities, job training, and resources so that the cost of housing and child care do not serve as barriers to getting an education or job, our economy will suffer. Attracting and developing businesses and industries requires an educated pool of workers that businesses can reply upon. 

As Director of Children’s Action Alliance David Lujan as well as former Governor Jan Brewer both wrote recently, these deep and permanent tax cuts are short sighted and could decimate our ability to live within our means.  

We need YOU to help stop these dangerous cuts.  Call the Governor’s office and the leadership of both the House and the Senate.  Tell them you want budget hearings that provide the opportunity for public input.  Ask that budget debate take place during the day, not the middle of the night as is often the case.  Share your specific concerns and priorities.

Governor Ducey: 602-542-4331
Senate President Karen Fann: 602-926-5874
House Speaker Rusty Bowers: 602-926-3128
If you are able, come to the Capitol this week to show your support for a responsible budget with investments in our public schools, as well as  infrastructure and health and care four our most vulnerable neighbors. Many groups are planning daily events this week. As always, please contact me if you have questions or concerns.  Thank you for your support! 

 

Sincerely,
Rep Judy Schwiebert
Arizona State House Representative from LD20

jSchwiebert@azleg.gov
602-926-3390 (office)
One of our local channels, AZ Family 3TV, has produced an original documentary about how the Justine Spitalny School in the Cartwright District faced the challenges of COVID with their students this year.  It’s a moving testament to the extraordinary, heartfelt work of so many teachers across the state who helped their students through this most challenging year. I highly recommend it! 

Join Me Online This Saturday, May 8, at 3 pm for the

Arizona House Democrats Budget Town Hall

It’s budget season, the time of year when your legislature completes its primary purpose.  Our state budget is really important to all of us since it will reflect our values as the people of Arizona. So, your voice is important in this process.

Please join me and my colleague, Rep Mitzi Epstein as we listen to your priorities and share the House Democrats’ budget planning at this point. Other legislators may also be available. 

I hope to see you there!  Please register here to get a link for the event.   

Sincerely,
Rep Judy Schwiebert
Arizona State House Representative from LD20

Your State Budget

The legislative session cannot end until a budget is approved. While majority legislators are working in secret to construct a budget that is expected to be released early next week, Democrats are also at work listening to our constituents and constructing a budget based on your priorities.

For several years, Arizona has been underfunding schools, healthcare, roads, prisons, environmental concerns, and other important state responsibilities. However, despite the pandemic, we have  billions of dollars in surpluses this year, providing us with an opportunity to invest in the needs of the people of Arizona including

  • Roads and infrastructure.  Every Appropriations committee meeting seemed to include bills for desperately-needed road repairs that can’t wait the 5-10 or 15 years it takes for ADOT to get to them because they don’t have adequate funding. 
  • Healthcare. We have a moral obligation to care for our most vulnerable citizens, but independent evaluations show that our state’s budget falls short by hundreds of millions of dollars annually in what’s needed to address the needs of our youngest, elderly, and disabled neighbors. 
  • K-12 classrooms. Too many of our school buildings are decaying. All of our children deserve safe and modern facilities in which to learn.
  • Teacher pay.  We were in such a deep hole, that even after recent increases Arizona teacher salaries remain in the national basement, and children in 1 in 4 classrooms have no permanent, qualified teacher.
  • Higher education. Tuition for our state universities is among the highest in the nation, largely because Arizona invests less in all three universities than we do on prisons, which are also underfunded.Item 4