Small Business Tax Break Advances Out of Arizona Legislature

Small Business Tax Break Advances Out of Arizona Legislature

By Corinne Murdock |

On Wednesday, the State Senate approved legislation lowering the percentage of assessed valuation for commercial property to 15 percent. SB1093 would reduce the property assessment ratio gradually over the next five years. 

According to the bill sponsor in a press release, State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), explained that the aim was to ensure that Arizonans have more money to spend and, ultimately, invest back into the economy. 

“Property taxes are a critical issue to all businesses, but especially for our smaller establishments. This bill will provide broad relief to our job creators,” said Mesnard. “Reducing the tax burden allows our small businesses to invest more money in their workforce and in expanding operations.”

The bill passed along party lines in both the House and Senate. 

SB1093 would impact class one property: commercial and industrial properties that include those for mining, telecommunication companies, utilities, standing timber, airport fuel delivery, oil and gas production, pipelines, shopping centers, golf courses, and property devoted to any commercial or industrial use. Additionally, SB1093 prohibits fire district tax from increasing beyond $3.75 per $100 of assessed valuation.

State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) commended Mesnard for the bill. 

Legislature Democrats disliked that funds accrued from those property taxes would no longer be available, arguing that the state would turn elsewhere for the lost funds: homeowners, sales taxes, and the general fund. 

State Senator Lela Alston (D-Phoenix) insisted during the Senate floor vote that the legislation would result in a tax increase on homeowners down the road.

State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Chandler) offered similar sentiments last month during the House floor vote. She added that the fund was a slippery slope mindset that would ultimately lead to steep cutoffs of education funding. State Representative Pamela Powers Hannley (D-Tucson) argued that the bill was based on trickle-down economics that she said only made the rich richer and the poor poorer. 

“This bill picks winners and losers with the regular folks being losers in the state of Arizona,” said Powers Hannley. 

State Representative Kelli Butler (D-Phoenix) added that the bill would result in county deficits that must either be mitigated or result in cuts. Butler said that the deficit would hurt rural areas the most. 

“If you want to continue to fund law enforcement, like I do, if you want to continue to fund really important things in your counties and rural Arizona, you need to vote against this bill,” said Butler.

State Representative Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek) rebutted the arguments put forth by his Democratic colleagues. He insinuated that their calculations were simplistic and neglecting the potential for exponential and possibly unprecedented growth inspired by low tax rates.

“In reality, the loss is less than it may appear by simply subtracting the revenue that’s brought in,” said Carter.

State Representative Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) noted that the assessment ratio is applied across the state equally and would eventually make Arizona more competitive with Texas, Colorado, and Utah. 

SB1093 now heads to Governor Doug Ducey for approval. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Arizona Ranks First in Economic Performance, Third in Economic Competitiveness

Arizona Ranks First in Economic Performance, Third in Economic Competitiveness

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona ranked as the top state for economic performance and third for economic competitiveness according to a nationally-renowned, conservative model legislation nonprofit. Those numbers come from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) latest report is their 15th annual “Rich States, Poor States” index on state economies.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Vince Leach (R-Tucson), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force chairman, attributed the ranking to conservative policies. Leach serves as vice chairman of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee.

“While serving as the Vice Chair of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, I’ve advocated for fiscally conservative policies focusing on paying off state debt, cutting taxes, and creating an environment competitive for attracting new business and growing a strong workforce, while removing big government red tape that suppresses the economic success and viability of the states,” said Leach.

Arizona’s ranking for economic outlook has varied over the last ten years — 13th in 2021, 10th in 2020, 11th in 2019, 5th in 2018, 8th in 2017, 5th in 2016 and 2015, 7th in 2014, 6th in 2013, and 9th in 2012. The last time Arizona ranked this high was from 2007 to 2010.

ALEC determined their rankings using each state’s current standing in 15 state policy variables. These are the top marginal personal income tax rate, top marginal corporate income tax rate, personal income tax progressivity, property tax burden, sales tax burden, remaining tax burden, estate/inheritance tax levying, recently legislated tax changes, debt service as a share of tax revenue, public employees per 10,000 of population, state liability system survey, state minimum wage, average workers’ compensation costs, right-to-work status, and tax expenditure limits. 

ALEC noted that states with lower expenditures and less taxes generally experienced higher economic growth.

While Arizona climbed upward in the 15 years of the annual ALEC index, the top state didn’t budge. Utah has ranked first in economic competitiveness every year. 

The top ten states on ALEC’s list were as follows, in order: Utah, North Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma, Idaho, Nevada, Indiana, Florida, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

The middle pack of states, in order of ranking: Texas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Louisiana, Alaska, Colorado, Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Delaware, Montana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Connecticut, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Washington, and Rhode Island.

The bottom ten states, in order: Oregon, Maryland, Hawaii, Maine, Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, California, New Jersey, and New York.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Resolution Establishing Arizona’s First Lieutenant Governor Passes House Committee 

Resolution Establishing Arizona’s First Lieutenant Governor Passes House Committee 

By Corinne Murdock |

A Senate resolution to appoint Arizona’s first lieutenant governor passed the House Government and Elections Committee with bipartisan support on Wednesday, 10-3. The three to vote against the resolution were Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) and State Representatives Judy Burges (R-Skull Valley) and Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson). 

The resolution, SCR1024, proposed that each gubernatorial nominee would name a lieutenant governor to run on the ticket with them at least 60 days before the general election, serving as a joint candidate. If the lieutenant governor couldn’t serve in the position any longer, then the governor would appoint another individual with majority approval of the state legislature. If brought before and approved by voters this November, the constitutional amendment would go in effect in 2027.

Bolding wanted to raise the total votes needed to approve a replacement lieutenant governor to 60 percent versus a simple majority. The resolution sponsor, State Representative J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) responded that the state constitution determines the number of state legislature votes needed to approve an appointment. In final remarks on voting against the resolution, Bolding added that he couldn’t support the resolution because he didn’t believe voters would know what they were voting on if the resolution came before them on the ballot.

Arizona is one of five states without a lieutenant governor: Oregon, Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Maine. If Governor Doug Ducey were unable to fulfill his duties, then Secretary of State Katie Hobbs would be next in line to take over. Hobbs is running for governor this year, contending against fellow Democrats Marco Lopez and Aaron Lieberman, and may face off against Republicans Steve Gaynor, Kari Lake, Karrin Taylor Robson, Matt Salmon, or Scott Neely. The primary election will take place on August 2.

After the secretary of state, the succession for governor would fall on the attorney general, then state treasurer, and finally the superintendent of public instruction.

SCR1024 went hand-in-hand with SB1255, which passed out of the same committee with even more support, 12-1. That time, only Burges voted against the bill. SB1255 would award the lieutenant governor directorship over the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA), allowing the individual to fill any positions not under the governor’s purview to appoint. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Mail-In Voting Fraud Bill Advances to House Floor

Mail-In Voting Fraud Bill Advances to House Floor

By Corinne Murdock |

A bill to tighten up mail-in voting, SB1260, passed the House Government and Elections Committee along a party-line vote on Wednesday, 7-6. 

SB1260, introduced by State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), would make it a class 5 felony for someone to knowingly help another to vote who’s registered in another state. If made law, people would be required to write “not at this address” on an early ballot sent to their home but not addressed to them. There’s no penalty for not writing the phrase on the ballot. In return, county recorders would have to cancel that individual’s registration and remove their name from the Active Early Voting List (AEVL). 

Mesnard explained during the committee hearing that Arizona law doesn’t currently have standards for handling those who’ve moved, such as duplicate registrations.

Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) inquired how a prosecutor would determine that an individual knew they were helping another vote fraudulently, giving an example of a parent forwarding an absentee ballot to their college student who’d established residency and registered to vote in another state. Mesnard admitted that determining that someone “knowingly” facilitated fraudulent voting was difficult to prove, emphasizing that the burden to prove that would fall on the prosecutor. 

“I don’t think it should be someone caught up in an innocent mistake,” said Mesnard.

State Representative Kevin Payne (R-Peoria) pointed out that the college student given in Bolding’s example would have to vote on the ballot for the parent’s mistake to be made apparent, and that the college student would be knowingly submitting a fraudulent vote.

State Representative Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix) asked whether this was a real issue that occurred. Mesnard confirmed that he’d received reports of people submitting ballots to others registered in other counties.

“What does the statute say? Is the statute silent on it or does it address that? And it was silent on the issue,” said Mesnard. 

Constituents in favor of the bill included Arizona Free Enterprise Club Deputy Director Greg Blackie, agreeing with Mesnard that current statute doesn’t address this problem that mailed ballots present.

Bolding claimed that counties already have a mechanism in place to address ballots sent to the wrong address, and he argued that the ignorant might be punished for unintentionally committing a crime.

“If they are somehow convicted by a rogue prosecutor, whether they’re at the local level or state level who’s looking to make a political point or score points,” said Bolding. “In this political environment right now, I think we need to be judicious in the laws that we’re making. We need to make sure we’re taking the politics out of it, especially when it comes to the electoral process.”

Liguori concurred with Bolding’s assessment, arguing that the legislation addressed a nonexistent problem. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.