Gov. Doug Ducey: Ex inmates in Arizona’s fire-crew program given a real second chance

‘I felt like a zero. Now I feel like a hero.”

That’s what an Arizona inmate said to me when I traveled to Navajo County in the summer of 2016. My team and I were up north observing the damage caused by the Cedar Fire and meeting the brave firefighters who risked their lives to protect our state’s landscapes.

The man I met was part of a group of inmates enlisted in a fire-crew program operated by the Arizona Department of Corrections. The agency’s program selects current inmates to fight fires throughout Arizona while serving their time in prison.

To me, the program is a way of letting these individuals pay back their communities and, by giving them a chance to be productive members of society, increasing the likelihood that they won’t return to prison after being released. Often, it means a job is waiting when they walk out the doors.

One squad boss who spoke to KOLD News 13 in April said that the program has “been a life-changing experience for me. I know a lot of the guys out here feel the same way.”

I told that story during my State of the State address in January, and I’ve thought about it many times since. Exchanges like this — and the positive outcomes we’ve seen from Arizona’s forward-thinking corrections efforts — are one of the reasons we’re investing more in anti-recidivism programs this year.

The next time a Sawmill Fire rages through Southern Arizona, threatening our neighbors’ homes, property, and livelihood, I want it to be easier for individuals released from prison to stand up and protect their communities.

That’s why the new state budget I signed a few weeks ago is investing $1.5 million to create a post-release fire crew. (The existing program enlists current inmates; the new program enlists released inmates.) We’re giving Arizonans a real second chance to turn their lives around in a meaningful and productive way.

Our anti-recidivism strategy is a win-win for everyone involved, including hardworking Arizona taxpayers. After all, it’s expensive to house inmates — and, according to the data, 39 percent of inmates released from prison will eventually return to prison. That’s a big bill to pay in the long term.

Taxpayers already give enough of their hard-earned money to government. They shouldn’t be expected burden the ever-growing costs of recidivism because of outdated policies.
This new fire crew accomplishes both: It protects taxpayers from long-term prison costs, and it improves public safety. And it’s not the only investment we’re making to make that happen.
Our fiscal year 2018 budget also finances the expansion of “Employment Centers” within Arizona prisons. These centers help inmates do things like build résumés and find jobs before they’re released, giving them tools to lift themselves up and build better lives rather than revert to their old ways.

This is a common-sense investment to reduce the state’s prison population and save taxpayers money.

So far, we have opened three of these successful Employment Centers, including in the Manzanita Unit in Tucson. All three centers are now open and operational, and we’ve already seen 35 individuals receive job offers after participating. (There are nearly 200 inmates currently going through the program.)

Our goal is to give people the tools they need to improve their lives, help them see value in themselves (maybe for the first time in their lives), and offer them a concrete way of paying back their communities.

Whether that means analyzing the effects of outdated occupational licensing processes on individuals with criminal records or enabling released inmates to work as peer coaches to help those struggling with addiction, our state is taking the lead when it comes to getting people back on their feet.

That’s how to give Arizonans a real second chance — and how to save Arizona taxpayers money while doing it.

This guest opinion originally appeared on Tucson.com.

 

Arizona Teachers Should Pay Off Debt BEFORE Retirement

A recent article in the Arizona Republic written by Alexa Chryssovergis caught my eye given that I now work in the world of public education.

Teachers across Arizona work multiple jobs to make ends meet,” gave several anecdotes of teachers who were struggling to survive just on their compensation. The article continued on the theme that Arizona public school teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. The data absolutely supports that.

One recurrent theme was that many teachers have student loans that they are struggling to pay off as part of their monthly budget.

Although the author provided no data as to the average student loan burden, stories I’ve heard (including during legislative testimony) reveal that teachers are carrying this form of debt that poses serious challenges to making ends meet.

However, what the article did not mention is that every public school teacher is forced to “contribute” 11.48% of their gross earnings into the Arizona State Retirement System. The contribution is mandatory but the rate is adjustable.

The bottom line is that teachers are paying student loan companies AND the State of Arizona retirement system before they even pay themselves.

In the wisdom of financial experts like Dave Ramsey, debt should always be paid off BEFORE putting money into a retirement account. And most student loan is manageable and can be paid down in a reasonable amount of time.

What if public school teachers were allowed to suspend their mandatory contributions to the Arizona State Retirement System in order to redirect that income toward paying down their student loan debt? This would lighten their financial burden, get them in the financial black and put them in a position to start building wealth with “gazelle intensity.”

Next year when the Arizona Legislature convenes, I hope to see several lawmakers sponsor a bill that gives teachers and other participants the option to suspend their mandatory contributions into ASRS so they can reduce or eliminate their student loan debt.

We all know that Arizona public school teachers are under compensated. Forcing them to divide their take-home pay between Sallie Mae and ASRS puts teachers further into a difficult financial position that sucks the joy out of doing their job.

Let’s give teachers a break by holding off mandatory contributions to the state until they dig out of student loan debt.

Christine Jones – Conservative Business Leader For Congress

When you want problems in government fixed, you send a businessperson to do the job. This has been the successful solution since the Founding Fathers set our country in motion and it’s still a successful strategy today.

Individuals from the business community know best how to balance budgets, deal with government regulations and most important, how to create jobs and prosperity.

Government does not create prosperity. Government sucks resources out of the economy, creates deadweight losses and does a horrible job of providing services that the private sector can provide much more efficiently. With the exception of certain public goods such as defense, law enforcement, justice, etc., government is a drag on the economy and a burden on the lives of free individuals.

Here in Arizona, we’ve seen an example of great leadership coming out of the private sector business community.

Governor Doug Ducey started his service in executive leadership in 2011 as Arizona State Treasurer. Prior to that, he started out as a successful entrepreneur and CEO who grew a small ice cream shop from the ground up into a nationwide franchise. Since elected as Governor, Doug Ducey has been successful reforming, consolidating and downsizing government and getting it out of the way of small businesses like Uber and Air BnB. Having a successful businessman in leadership is great for the economy, creating jobs and expanding technology.

Christine Jones for CongressNow the voters of Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District have the opportunity to elect a very successful conservative businesswoman to Congress.

Christine Jones has scored success wherever she has served. As the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Go Daddy, she helped take the company from a small internet company to a giant corporation whose servers now touch one-third of all internet traffic. When she first began at GoDaddy, the company only had a few dozen employees. During her watch, she helped grow the company to over 4,000 employees – that’s over 4,000 private sector jobs contributing to the economy. And that doesn’t include the 10 million entrepreneurs and small businesses that have grown and prospered through GoDaddy’s products and services.

After leaving GoDaddy, Jones next went on to lead another Arizona success story when she accepted the position of Interim CEO of Great Hearts Academies. There, she oversaw the tremendous accomplishments of thousands of students on the road to college and successful careers.  This role also testifies to her strong understanding and commitment to education and how a quality education is inherently linked to jobs and the economy.

Christine Jones is no stranger to success. Unlike her opponents, who have spent their careers being assimilated into government and politics, Christine Jones possesses a healthy resistance to growing government and becoming another career politician.

This election year, the voters should take the opportunity to send another real Arizona success story to Congress. Christine Jones is a conservative business leader who has proven she knows how to grow small business, create thousands of jobs, control the growth of government and get government spending under control.

This August the voters have a real choice between a handful of career politicians or a successful private sector businesswoman in Christine Jones. Let’s hope they choose the latter.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club: Minimum Wage Initiative a Ploy to Unionize Workers

Free Enterprise Club

Reposted from The Arizona Free Enterprise Club.

Currently there is a massive effort underway to get several “California-style” initiatives on the ballot in November. The Club encourages anyone approached on the street by one of these petition carriers to “decline to sign.” One of the initiatives likely to get the signatures necessary to qualify jacks up the minimum wage and mandates minimum state-wide paid sick time.

Specifically, the measure increases Arizona’s minimum wage from the current $8.05, to $10 starting January 1st, 2017 – and tops out at a whopping $12 an hour in 2020, then defaulting back to increases based upon the cost of living index. Additionally, if passed, it would mandate businesses with more than 15 employees provide 40 hours of paid sick time and 24 hours of annual paid sick time for businesses with less than 15 employees.

This voter protected act would have a devastating effect on Arizona’s economy. Minimum wage schemes set an arbitrary floor on every industry, every business, and every job – and divorces wages from the actual economic value a position creates. As a result, minimum wages do not heed any more buying power for the people they purport to help, but instead increase costs and therefore create an eventual pressure to increase prices. Mandatory paid sick leave is another invention of the left which seeks to create policies in a vacuum outside any economic realities.

However the real intent of these “worker welfare” movements is more and more obvious. The campaign “Arizonans for Fair Wages and Healthy Families” is being pushed by the union-backed organization LUCHA (Living United for Change in Arizona) who since 2013 has advocated the “Fight for $15” for fast food workers and other out-of-state union groups. The battles are for minimum wage and paid sick leave; the war is unionization of the total workforce. This is evidenced by the fact that this very initiative exempts workers under a collective bargaining agreement. In other words, we have hit a new level of hypocrisy. If this was about creating the workers’ paradise, and not about incentivizing unionization, there would be no exceptions.

As if this all wasn’t damaging enough, the initiative has another kicker, which allows cities and towns to pass more generous wage and benefit mandates. With cities such as Tempe, Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Tucson – Arizona can expect to have a patchwork of employment laws – making doing business across city borders an arduous endeavor.

Arizonans should be wary this election season. Union groups and leftist interests are out in full force – trying to make the Grand Canyon State look more like an increasingly bankrupt California. If voters are wise, they will reject destructive ballot initiatives such as this one.

Follow Arizona Free Enterprise Club on Facebook and Twitter.

Sal DiCiccio: Pension Reform Matters – Vote YES on 487

MillionaireFirefighter

$1.1 Million: Cash Payout to one Firefighter at Retirement and then STARTED his annual Pension of $149,420-for life. He retired at 54.

$955,000: Cash Payout for another Firefighter. He then started a $130,000 pension for life. He retired at 53.

See the list of Firefighter retirees below:

Average Cash payouts at Retirement: $679,672

Average Yearly Pension: $111,296

Average Age at Retirement: 53

24 Firefighters cashed out over $16 million in retirement and then started their pensions.

Every single city employee (Everyone) gets both a Cash Payout AND a Pension.

Vote YES 487/Stop Pension Abuse

We all love our firefighters and respect them for the hard work they give our city. You’re probably wondering why they’re coming in droves to our neighborhoods handing out misleading information on pension reform? Especially since they’re clearly excluded from the pension reform proposal. Why, because they’re concerned that they may be next for reform.

The numbers from above are from Budget and Research and from the state of Arizona Retirement plan (PSPRS).

Why does pension reform matter? Without reform you will see more:

New and higher taxes: Phoenix passed a new water tax on you to pay for  pension spiking.

Cuts in Service: Phoenix is short over 500 police, cuts were made to seniors, libraries, seniors and children.

The government unions are doing all they can to undermine your vote. They want to keep everything…the way it is. Their union and their spokesman are purposely using strong arm tactics to attack people who support pension reform.

Here are the numbers:

PensionNumbers

What does 487 do?

* It immediately stops pension spiking. This alone would save over $19 million per year
* Fixes the broken pension system saving over $400 million.
* Allows current employees to keep everything they have earned.
* Makes new employees get the same retirement benefits you get. Moving all newemployees to a 401(K).
*Police and Fire are clearly excluded from the proposal.

Vote YES 487

Yes487

My best to you and your family,

Sal DiCiccio
Phoenix City Councilman

NFIB Arizona weighs in on latest economic report

Congress can help where Arizona fell down

PHOENIX, Ariz., June 10, 2014Today’s release of one of the nation’s most trusted economic surveys casts in sharp relief how pervasive our political leaders’ inattention to small-business job creation is, according to the Arizona state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, America’s voice of small business.

As it does very month, NFIB releases its Index of Small Business Optimism, which measures the pulse of the nation’s largest employer group—Main Street entrepreneurs. Although the index rose to its highest level since 2007, the underpinnings of a strong economy are still not seismically sound.

“What stood out for me in the latest optimism index was Arizona’s missed opportunity to spur capital spending and new job creation by our own small businesses when Governor Brewer vetoed House Bill 2664 earlier this year,” said Farrell Quinlan, Arizona state director for NFIB. The bill, which passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, would have created an immediate state income tax allowance for qualifying business equipment investments valued up to $500,000, similar to federal Section 179 expensing.

Indeed, in summarizing the latest optimism index, economist William Dunkelberg, its author, noted, “May’s numbers bring the Index to its highest level since September 2007. However, the four components most closely related to GDP and employment growth (job openings, job creation plans, inventory and capital spending plans) collectively fell 1 point in May.”

“Shifting capital spending into a higher gear is essential to a full and sustainable economic recovery,” said Quinlan. “Now, even though Arizona’s capital expensing vehicle stalled, Congress can turn on the ignition of job creation by passing H.R. 4457, the Small Business Tax Relief Act, when it comes up for a full House vote Thursday.

H.R. 4457 would allow small businesses to immediately deduct on their federal taxes the full value of equipment in the same year the investment is made, instead of depreciating the investment over time. This simplifies accounting and frees up cash to be reinvested and grow the business.

“The job-creation user’s manual is pretty straightforward and easy to follow,” said Quinlan. “If business owners have an incentive to invest in more equipment, they will need to hire more employees to meet the increased sales that equipment will generate. But I worry H.R. 4457 may face a similar grim fate in Congress as House Bill 2664 suffered in Arizona, despite everyone—Democrats, Republicans, business and labor—favoring it, a tragic misreading of the economy’s weakness will lead to continued inertia and another missed opportunity.”

Despite broad, bipartisan support, small-business federal expensing fell from $500,000 to $25,000 this year because previous extensions were temporary. H.R. 4457 would provide small businesses with expensing levels that are permanent, predictable and at a level adequate to their needs.Click here to read a letter 154 business associations signed and sent to Congress.

NOTE: The NFIB Research Foundation has collected Small Business Economic Trends data with quarterly surveys since 1974 and monthly surveys since 1986. Survey respondents are drawn from NFIB’s membership. The report is released on the second Tuesday of each month. For almost 40 years, NFIB’s Index of Small Business Optimism has been one of the nation’s bellwether economic barometers, used by Federal Reserve, chairmen, congressional leaders and presidential administrations.

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For more than 70 years, the National Federation of Independent Business has been the Voice of Small Business, taking the message from Main Street to the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures. NFIB annually surveys its members on state and federal issues vital to their survival as America’s economic engine and biggest creator of jobs. NFIB’s educational mission is to remind policymakers that small businesses are not smaller versions of bigger businesses; they have very different challenges and priorities.

Will Kyrsten Sinema Support Obama’s Job Destroying Cap-and-Trade Scheme?

NRCC

Kyrsten Sinema Will Have to Choose Between Saving Jobs or Backing her Friends in D.C.

WASHINGTON – Is Kyrsten Sinema going to listen to Arizona voters and save American jobs, or will she fall in line with her Democrat allies and support President Obama’s latest cap-and-trade scheme that could cost the U.S. economy $50 billion a year and eliminate an estimated 224,000 jobs?

A recent study, issued by the United States Chamber of Commerce, found that President Obama’s new cap-and-trade edict will force more than a “third of the coal-fired power capacity to close by 2030.”

“Not only will this new Obama regulation cost billions of dollars for taxpayers, but it will limit American energy production and spike electricity prices – hurting families across America,” said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek. “Arizona families deserve a Republican leader in Congress that will stand up to President Obama and his Administration’s job-destroying regulations.”

Will Kyrsten Sinema Support Obama’s Job Destroying Cap-and-Trade Scheme.
(Michael Bastasch, EPA To Unilaterally Push Cap And Trade On Carbon Emissions, The Daily Caller, 5/27/14)

“President Obama’s climate rule change will force more than a “third of the coal-fired power capacity to close by 2030.”
(Mark Drajem, Chamber Study Predicts Obama Climate Rule Will Kill Jobs, Bloomberg, 5/28/14)

Cost nearly $50 billion and eliminate an estimated 224,000 jobs
(Energy Institute Report Finds That Potential New EPA Carbon Regulations Will Damage U.S. Economy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 5/28/14)

It will limit American energy production and spike electricity prices.
(Ralph Vartabedian, U.S. electricity prices may be going up for good, LA Times, 4/25/14)

ELECTRICITY: “U.S. electricity prices may be going up for good. There is a growing fragility in the U.S. electricity system, experts warn, the result of the shutdown of coal-fired plants, reductions in nuclear power, a shift to more expensive renewable energy and natural gas pipeline constraints. … ‘We are now in an era of rising electricity prices,’ said Philip Moeller, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…” (Los Angeles Times)

HEALTH CARE: “More employees are getting hit with higher health insurance premiums and co-payments, and many don’t have the money to cover unexpected medical expenses, a new report finds. More than half of companies (56%) increased employees’ share of health care premiums or co-payments for doctors’ visits in 2013, and 59% of employers say they intend to do the same in 2014, according to the annual Aflac WorkForces Report.” (USA TODAY)

FOOD: “Rising food prices bite into household budgets. Prices are rising for a range of food staples, from meat and pork to fruits and vegetables, squeezing consumers still struggling with modest wage gains.” (USA TODAY)

FLYING, THE MOVIES, OIL CHANGES, AND MORE: “David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff, said other areas beyond food and energy … are getting costlier as well. ‘Airline fares are on the rise,’ he said in his morning note Tuesday. ‘Movie tickets and other such recreational services are on the rise. Repair service fees are on the rise. Shelter costs in general are on the rise. Tuition costs are on the rise. Medical service prices are on the rise.’” (NBC News)

“Shame On” Campaigns – Union Intimidation & Shakedowns

Ever wonder about those “shame on” campaigns around town? Watch this video and witness how unions use this tactic to shakedown businesses.

If it can happen in Colorado, it can happen in Arizona.

h/t to KC3CO

Dinner at Monti’s? It may require reservations now thanks to Obamacare

Reservations at Tempe’s dining landmark Monti’s?

That’s right, because it may be a little harder now.

Monti’s, the famed Tempe restaurant, is now cutting hours for employees because of ObamaCare.

Kyrsten Sinema ObamacareThe same law that Kyrsten Sinema helped craftcampaigned for, and voted to keep is hurting workers in her own district.

But this isn’t the first time that the law’s regulations have hit home for Sinema. Just a few weeks ago, ObamaCare caused her coworkers at ASU to see their hours cut.

When she supports laws that actively hurt those in the 9th district, Kyrsten Sinema proves that she’s just too big a risk for Arizona families.

According to Matt Gorman, spokesman for the NRCC, “The disastrous law that Kyrsten Sinema helped craft and campaign for is hurting workers right in her district. How can workers and families trust her to dismantle ObamaCare when she was its biggest cheerleader in the first place?”

Just another example of the unintended consequences of a devastatingly bad public policy.

 

LIBRE: Minimum Wage Workers Protest for More Pay

Growing the Economy is the Best Way to Raise Wages

(Washington, D.C.) – Fast food workers in many parts of the country today intend to walk out on their jobs in protest of low wages. Press reports indicate these workers support a doubling of the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. This walkout – which is financed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – is the most recent in a series of strikes in major U.S. cities. Supporters of the minimum wage increase for fast food workers say a higher salary is more important now because while fast food jobs used to be primarily taken by teens, many workers are now older and supporting families. Small business advocates argue that raising the minimum wage has the effect of forcing employers to increase their use of technology to replace personnel, reduce employee hours worked, or cut costs in other ways.

Daniel Garza, Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative released the following statement:

“While the struggle of these workers to make ends meet is legitimate, their complaints are aimed at the wrong target. Minimum wage increases come at a cost to job creators who will inevitably pass the economic burden on to clients and potential employees. Empirical research shows that such increases tend to reduce employment of the very ones requesting higher wages. The best way to get employers to raise wages is to create more jobs, grow the economy, put more money in the pockets of consumers and decrease regulations like the Affordable Care Act that are causing restaurants to lay off workers and cut hours.

More than four years into what the White House calls ‘a recovery’, family incomes have fallen, small businesses are hurting, and a shift in the job market has teens and older Americans competing for the same entry-level, low wage jobs. Fast food workers and others should demand a new approach from Washington – one that doesn’t rely on more borrowing, more taxes, and more regulation. Instead, we need to get government out of the way of entrepreneurs who know how to grow businesses and create economic opportunity.”

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The LIBRE Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit, national grassroots organization dedicated to informing the U.S. Hispanic community about the benefits of a constitutionally limited government, property rights, rule of law, sound money supply and free enterprise through a variety of community events, research and policy initiatives. Latinos have been disproportionately hurt by the economic downturn suffering from higher levels of unemployment and poverty. Our aim is to equip the Hispanic community with the tools they need to be prosperous. Connect with us on Facebook at The LIBRE Initiative and @LIBREInitiative on Twitter. Visit: www.thelibreinitiative.com.