Phoenix taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the Suns’ arena

By Boaz Witbeck 

The Phoenix City Council is considering whether to spend $150 million in taxpayer money on a plan to renovate the Phoenix Suns’ Talking Stick Resort arena.

At a recent public meeting, supporters of the plan argued that it’s worth $150 million to keep the team downtown.

Wanting to keep our beloved Suns in Phoenix is understandable, especially with the owner at one point threatening to move the team out of the city. But a taxpayer handout isn’t the way to do it. We would all do well to listen to Phoenix resident Greta Rogers, who told the City Council last December, “We [Phoenix residents] are not in the business of paying taxes to support private enterprise.”

Ms. Rogers is right. Government should not be picking and choosing winners in the private sector. In her words, “They can support themselves or fail on their own lack of diligence.” In that spirit, we urge the City Council to reject the plan when they vote Jan. 23.

Since 2006, politicians across North America have spent $11 billion in taxpayer funds on 54 ballparks, arenas, and stadiums.

Taxpayers forked over $430 million for the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center. They paid $305 million for the Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center. And they’re on the hook for $250 million for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena. The list goes on.

Most of this spending – $9.3 billion worth – occurred without any taxpayer approval.  The people footing the bill had the opportunity to vote on funding for just 15 facilities. Only eight won voter approval.

Politicians like to claim that using taxpayer funds to build or renovate arenas will stimulate the local economy. The facts, however, say otherwise. 

One study unambiguously concluded, “there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development.”

On the contrary, economics professors from the College of Holy Cross note that teams and stadiums propped up by taxpayer funding can actually choke off local economic activity. People spending money to go to games might have less money to spend at the local theater or might be deterred to go to eat out because of all the traffic from a sporting event.

Funding for stadiums can also crowd out expenditures for important public services and bust municipal budgets. Sometimes that money is wasted on arenas that sit empty. Houston’s Astrodome, which was built with $31 million in public funds and left the county millions of dollars in debt after being condemned for code violations. Despite all of this, last year Harris County approved another $105 million in taxpayer funds for renovations. The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis sits empty, leaving the taxpayers of Missouri paying $144 million in debt and upkeep costs until 2021 – in part because Los Angeles is subsidizing a new stadium for the NFL’s Rams, the team that left St. Louis.

In an ideal world, owners wouldn’t threaten to leave cities unless they get a taxpayer handout and politicians wouldn’t cave to their demands. Local officials need to always remember they’re supposed to look out for our interests.

Spending our hard-earned money on bad investments is not in our interest.

We Americans love our sports teams. But we shouldn’t allow politicians to use those attachments to benefit the well-connected at our expense.    

Boaz Witbeck is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-Arizona

Voters Deserve Opportunity to Decide if More Light Rail is Right for Phoenix

Building A Better Phoenix

It has been almost a month since our grassroots group—Building a Better Phoenix—turned in 40,000 signatures to give voters an opportunity to stop the disastrous $7 Billion dollar expansion of light rail in the city of Phoenix. 

Gathering twice the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot in under 8 weeks was an extremely difficult task and would not have been accomplished without the hard work of concerned residents and small business owners throughout the city. The overwhelming support from the public has humbled us and shows how people from all different backgrounds can come together to help save a community.

We have also learned that our battle against the endless amounts of misleading information being published about our group and the alleged benefits of light rail has only begun.

Contrary to lies being told by politicians and rich special interests, we are not being led by the Koch Brothers or any other group. Building a Better Phoenix decided early on that we would not accept funding from any outside group to pay for the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. This is a promise that we have kept. Unlike the opponents to our ballot measure that won’t disclose who is funding their misinformation campaign, we have been transparent throughout our signature gathering efforts.

It is also evident that the backers of light rail are now trying to sell the project on its fabricated economic benefits. If light rail is as good as they claim, then why were we kept in the dark about the South Phoenix extension reducing Central Avenue from four lanes to two? Why weren’t we told about the increase levels of crime light rail would bring? Why weren’t we notified that the traffic restrictions along the light rail line would cripple small businesses and make it extremely difficult for emergency vehicles to access our neighborhoods?

All we are trying to do is save our community from a stagnant permanent fixture that will increase crime, traffic congestion and bankrupt countless small businesses, many of which have been around for decades. It’s not that we are afraid of change. Change is great as long as it is a positive change. 

Seeing that most residents agree with our concerns, it appears that Valley Metro and Phoenix politicians are now preparing to ignore the will of the voters and move forward with the construction of the South Phoenix light rail line early next year. The message is clear: they don’t care what the public thinks or if the project is rejected at the ballot box, they intend to build it anyways. 

Their position is unbelievably arrogant and would put our transportation tax dollars at risk. It only makes sense that all planned light rail projects are postponed until after the vote. We hope that Phoenix and Valley Metro reconsider their reckless position and listen to the voters.

Our goal from the beginning was to give the residents of Phoenix an opportunity to cast an informative vote on either spending billions more on light rail or instead use those funds on other much needed transportation projects. We are proud that we have made it this far, and look forward to engaging in an honest, factual debate on the issue.   

Susan Gudino is treasurer for Building a Better Phoenix and is a South Phoenix resident. For more information on Building a Better Phoenix, please visit www.buildingabetterphx.com

The Ugly Truth About Proposition 126

Proposition 126 is not a tax cut. It is not pro-business. It is not good for Arizona.

Arizonans will have the choice Nov. 6 on whether to pass Prop 126, a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to permanently exempt the service industry from sales taxes. What may sound like a generous proposal to cut taxes is, in reality, an unfair handout to privilege some businesses over others.

  • Prop 126 benefits the service industry while narrowing the tax base, making it more likely that, when push comes to shove, marginal income-tax rates will be raised on everyday Arizonans. Indeed, if the state ever needed to raise revenue, it would be cut off from a significant sector of the economy, forcing it to turn to raising much higher taxes on everyone else.

After all, Prop 126 is not a tax cut. It is a roadblock to keeping tax rates low across the board. It would hamstring our state’s lawmakers, making it much more difficult for them to craft flexible, uniform and fair tax policy.

  • What’s more, Prop 126 is not “pro-business” — it is pro-some businesses, and not others. There are several other ways Arizona could make it easier for businesses to thrive. Doling out special benefits to some while sticking others with the bill is unfair. It’s also bad policy.

While Prop 126 would affect all 7 million-plus Arizonans, it would help only some. During a time when our state’s economy is dynamic and rapidly growing, we need a tax policy flexible enough to keep our taxes low and treat Arizonans fairly.

We won’t get that with Prop 126. On Nov. 6, Arizonans should send this amendment packing.

Clean Election System Abuse Continues as Candidates Funnel More Taxpayer Money to the Democrat Party

By Free Enterprise Club

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission claims they care about keeping special interests out of the political process by providing candidates with taxpayer funds to run for office.

But as was discovered in 2016 election cycle, politicians and political operatives know how to cheat the system and the unaccountable Clean Elections Commission just doesn’t seem to care.

An examination of campaign finance reports filed by publicly funded Clean Election Candidates in 2018 show over $100,000 being funneled to the state, county and local political parties, as well as to other political operations such as the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC).

As was the case in prior elections, the democratic candidates running in the least competitive legislative districts are the biggest contributors to these electioneering efforts.

One of the worst offenders is candidate Lynsey Robinson from conservative legislative district 12 in the East Valley.  She gave a staggering $22,590 to the Democratic Party Operations, which is over 50 percent of the total amount she receives from Clean Elections!  If her intention was to win her race, sending over half her money to the Party seems like a poor strategy to do so.

Other giveaways to political groups include:

$21,442 from Jo Craycraft, candidate for Senate in LD 1
$18,980 from Hazel Chandler, candidate for House in LD 20
$18,500 from Chris Gilfillan, candidate for House in LD 20
$14,170 from Mark Manoil, candidate for State Treasurer
$12,400 from Kiana Sears, candidate for the Corporation Commission
$9,520 from Kathy Hoffman, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Interestingly enough, the largest benefactor of these public funds was the ADLCC, a Political Action Committee chaired by legislative democrats to elect democrats around the state of Arizona.  Traditionally, victory PACs such as this provide money and support tocandidates—they don’t receive money from them. This is because committees such as this fundraise for the express purpose of playing in election races.  However, they do so independently of any candidate because it is against the law for organizations and PACs to coordinate with candidates on their election activities.

That makes the expenditure to the ADLCC even more suspicious.  Either a candidate is giving them money to use in other more competitive races (which is wrong and must be stopped), or they are giving them money to provide services to their campaign (which is likely illegal.)  Either way, the ADLCC’s taxpayer gravy train is an offensive abuse of the system and should be stopped immediately.

The unaccountable Clean Elections Commission has made it clear that they don’t care how our money is wasted, which is why voters must vote YES on Proposition 306.  Prop 306 would prohibit candidates from funneling taxpayer funds to political parties and political special interest groups.   If there was any question that the exploitation of the system would continue and proliferate – this year’s election season proves otherwise.

Voters should put an end to it by Voting Yes on Prop 306.

Tempe’s Prop 404 – What You Need To Know

Tempe Cash

Tempe’s Prop 404 isn’t an increase by $30,000,000! It’s actually an increase by $156,591,369!

Arizona Auditor General Report dated December 5, 2017.

“Permanent Base Adjustment Summary Analysis:

Pursuant to the Arizona State Constitution, the City of Tempe (City) seeks voter approval to permanently adjust the expenditure base of the City as determined by the Economic Estimates Commission. If approved by the voters, the City’s base expenditure limitation will be increased by $30,000,000, adjusted each future year for population and inflation growth since 1979-80.

With voter approval, in 2018-19, the City’s expenditure limitation will increase by $156,591,369, from $342,305,491 to $498,896,860. The City will utilize the additional expenditure authority for any local budgetary purposes including public safety (police and fire/medical rescue) expenditures; community services, parks and youth programs; community development projects; transit operations and maintenance; and pay-as-you-go capital
financing.

If approved, the additional authorized expenditures will be funded from state and local sources.”
Just one more example of the progressive socialist Tempe City Council misleading us so they can continue to increase our outrageous taxes and fees!

About the bill:

Proposition 404: Permanent base expenditure adjustment

A strong economy has grown Tempe’s revenues over the last several years, but a state-imposed ceiling puts a cap on the amount municipalities can spend on their services, facilities and amenities. For the third time since the Arizona Legislature put the ceiling in place in 1980, Tempe must ask voters to raise the limit so the city can spend the revenue it brings in. Base adjustments do not raise sales or property tax rates. All annual expenditures still go through a public process and City Council approval.

The General/Special Election is March 13. This is the first Tempe election that will be Ballot by Mail, which means that every registered voter will get a ballot in the mail. Ballots will be mailed Feb. 14. Voters who need a replacement ballot can request one through the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office until March 5; after March 5, replacement ballots are available at either of the two ballot centers in Tempe or at the Recorder’s Office. Voters can also drop off their voted ballots or vote at a ballot center. Ballots must be received by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office or dropped off at a ballot center by 7 p.m. March 13. Maricopa County recommends that ballots be placed in the mail on or before March 7. Additional information is at http://www.tempe.gov/city- hall/city-clerk-s-office/ election-information/ballot- by-mail-elections

Any information about the election, from voter registration to finding the results, can be found at http://www.tempe.gov/city- hall/city-clerk-s-office/ election-information or by calling 480-350-4311.

By Tempe Republican Women

Secretary of State Completes Preliminary Review of Referendum Petitions

Michele Reagan

On August 8, 2017, Save Our Schools Arizona filed an estimated 9,078 petition sheets containing 111,540 signatures in support of R-02-2018.

The Secretary of State’s Office has completed its preliminary review of referendum petitions in accordance with Arizona law, and has determined that the committee filed 9,291 petition sheets.  Of these, 8,950 petition sheets containing 108,224 signatures remained eligible for random sampling and County Recorder review.

A 5% random sample of these signatures has been sent to the County Recorders for signature verification under Arizona law.  In order for the measure to qualify for the 2018 General Election ballot, the County Recorders must collectively validate at least 3,767 signatures (or 69.6%) from the random sample.

The deadline for County Recorder review is September 11, 2017.

Read more about Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan here.

Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Legislation Restoring Integrity to Initiative Process

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Representative Vince Leach (R-11) today applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing legislation (HB 2404) that he’s introduced to restore integrity to Arizona’s initiative process.

HB 2404 would prohibit the payment of petition circulators per signature and modify the number of days from five calendar days to ten business days within which a challenge to the registration of circulators can occur.

“By removing the incentive for fraud, HB 2404 keeps the initiative process intact as a legislative tool for Arizonans yet restores some badly needed integrity to the system,” said Representative Leach.  “I thank my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee for their support and look forward to consideration of the bill by the full Senate.”

Former Governor Janet Napolitano first advocated for the reform in 2009, using her State of the State address to ask the legislature to “crack down on signature fraud” by prohibiting the payment of petition circulators per signature.

Senator Sylvia Allen on National Popular Vote

Senator Sylvia Allen

Senator Sylvia Allen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

I am getting a lot of email about the National Popular vote asking me to change the way the electoral college works in our state.  How the Electoral votes are appropriated is only one of two of the powers the state Legislators have been given in the US Constitution.  The other is Article V which allows the states to propose amendments to the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote debate is picking up steam since Trump does not have a majority of the total national vote when adding up all votes cast in each state.  Some of the argument is that voters feel their vote does not count and that if your state is not part of the battleground states you are at a disadvantage.  One email said, “I’m tired of hearing that Ohio and Florida are the only states that matter in presidential elections.  What about Arizona?  Our votes should count too…”

I took a very hard look at this issue last session.  I read the National Popular Vote manual and had many discussions with legislators and my constituents.  Here is how I reasoned it out in my mind from the discussions that were held last year, from what I studied and read, and from my understanding of our government.

This national government was created by the states.  Sovereignty is held by the states.  The way to look at the Electoral College is that it is the States electing the president by the majority vote of the people who live in each state.  As in every election cycle, the President is elected by a majority of each state’s electoral votes, which means the majority vote cast by the people in their respective states elected the President by their electoral votes going for that candidate.  When you think about it, this is the way we preserve Federalism.  Looking at the map in any election you will see that the majority of the states, by the majority vote of their citizens, did elect the President.  Arizona did elect the president by the majority vote of our citizens, which means Arizona does count.

A true popular vote will only mean that highly populated states would prevail and the smaller states would not have a voice in the election which would mean that the citizens in those states would be at a disadvantage.

This nation was founded as a Republic using democratic processes to elect our leaders, but we are not a true Democracy.  We are a nation ruled by law the federal and state constitutions. Educating our citizens on the founding principles is so important, as our Founders said, that without it we will not remain free.

Senator Sylvia Tenney Allen serves as President Pro Tempore in the Arizona State Senate. She is a native Arizonan representing Arizona’s 5th Legislative District.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club: The Harmful Effects of Prop 206 Begin to Sink In

Arizona Free Enterprise Club

It has only been a month and the recently approved minimum wage initiative, Proposition 206, is already inflicting permanent damage on Arizona’s Economy, hardworking taxpayers and our most vulnerable and needy residents.

Similar to previous proposals, Prop 206 was sold on the idea that Arizona could raise its minimum wage to $12 an hour (adjusted for inflation every year thereafter) and require employers offer mandated paid sick leave to employees without any negative repercussions.  Reading the fine print of Prop 206 exposed this fraudulent claim; as the funders of the initiative (California Unions) exempted collective bargaining agreements from critical components of the initiative.  If this was so good, why exempt themselves from it?

Now the debilitating impacts of Prop 206 are being felt, and they are far more widespread and catastrophic than even the opponents of the initiative realized.  While it wasn’t a secret that Arizona businesses would face hard choices in order to comply with the wage hike, some of the worst hit organizations will be those that serve the neediest and most vulnerable populations in our state.  Currently in-home care services, many of which aid fragile and feeble seniors, range from $20-$24 an hour.   These services will go up;pricing out many of these seniors on fixed-incomes from receiving the care they desperately need or force more individuals onto state welfare rolls.

The developmentally disabled in our community will also be devastated by Proposition 206.  According to the President and CEO of the Centers for Habilitation and member of the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities, some providers will be forced to close operations as soon as January 1, 2017.

Some of these providers have contracts with the State of Arizona that set the reimbursement rates.  This means the state will be forced to allocate more taxpayer money to cover the higher costs.  If the state doesn’t cough up more tax dollars to address these needs, thousands of developmentally disabled in Arizona will be left without vital care.

It only gets worse from here.

Many subdivisions of the state such as school districts will also be deeply impacted by the voter mandate.  Positions such as cross walk guards cafeteria workers and bus drivers, many of which are part time positions, represent a significant aggregate cost to schools; costs which were neither anticipated nor planned for by districts or the state.

For Chandler Unified School District, Prop 206’s passage represents a $1.1 million hit to their budget.  Agua Fria Union High School District in the West Valley, $123,500.  Peoria Unified District – $1.1 million by 2020.  And Sahuarita District in southern Arizona $907,576.   These are tremendous costs which will necessitate the diversion of other resources from teachers and students or require more monies from taxpayers.

And although the law does not apply to state or federal agencies, many government departments will still be on the hook.  The State of Arizona has expenditure obligations for school districts as well as private contracts through AHCCCS (Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment Center System).  But the legislature has already passed a budget for 2017.  These additional costs were not included in the state’s budget.

Many voters that supported Prop 206 were not aware of the harmful effects this initiative would cause. Yet unlike bills proposed and passed at the legislature, there was no independent review, hearings, or public comment process of the initiative language to inform voters of these inevitable issues.

Now, even if voters wanted these issues fixed, Prop 206 can’t be modified because Arizona initiatives are bound by the strictest voter protection law in the country.  Once a measure is passed at the ballot, it can’t be changed unless it is sent back to the voters, and that can’t happen for two years.

As the saying goes, “elections have consequences.”  We suspect that the consequences of Prop 206, however, are not what Arizona voters signed up for.

Prop 205 Warning! Marijuana Edibles Pose Danger to Your Children

Last week, a spokesperson for Yes on Prop 205 appeared on Prescott’s KYCA radio to propagate the myth that legalizing recreational marijuana will make our schools better and our communities safer. When confronted with the question of why their campaign signs fail to mention marijuana, he could not – or would not – answer the question. Listen here.

While it may be the pro-pot campaign’s purview to manipulate Arizonans, we believe voters should have as much information as possible when considering a policy with so many extreme and irreversible societal and public safety ramifications.

In that regard, No on Prop 205 has released new campaign signs to highlight the dangers posed by legalizing marijuana – specifically, edible forms of marijuana – to Arizona children.

Placed throughout Maricopa and Pima Counties, the signs feature pictures of edible marijuana that is virtually indistinguishable from popular store-brand, drug-free candy. Next to it, the question is posed: “Would you be able to recognize marijuana? Would your children?”

NO on Prop 205

NO on Prop 205

While there is no shortage of problems with Prop 205, one of the most troubling is that it would authorize the production and sale of highly-concentrated marijuana edibles – with NO limits on potency. It would also allow these products to be blatantly advertised and even sold near preschools and youth clubs. It’s no wonder the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix soundly opposes Prop 205.

In marijuana-friendly states, accidental pot ingestion by youth has increased by more than 600 percent. It’s no wonder; if YOU can’t tell the difference between gummy bears and ganja – how will your children?