Andy Biggs’ Special Fire District Still Burned In My Memory

By East Valley Evan

They say an elephant never forgets. This Republican certainly doesn’t but sometimes it takes an incident to help recall.

The massive fire in Gilbert recently stoked my memory about one of our local politicians who tried to take advantage of a serious public safety threat.

Andy BiggsBack in 2005, Rural Metro notified the Town of Gilbert that they were ceasing operations in Gilbert because it was becoming too expensive to service the town due to the numerous county islands. That provoked a political fight between Gilbert and the county islanders.

In early 2006, county islander and State Representative Andy Biggs jumped feet first into the fight by sponsoring legislation allowing his fellow islanders to form a special fire district that would also pay back the Town of Gilbert for use of their municipal fire service. There was only one problem. The town of Gilbert was not going to recover the full cost of providing that service – an additional $5 million! Gilbert taxpayers like me would have had to pay the difference and subsidize all the folks in the county islands who were receiving Town of Gilbert services.

To add insult to injury, we would have had to pay the start up costs for a year and a half for Biggs’ special district before we even saw any reimbursement for our up front costs.

The Town of Gilbert decided to sue based on the grounds that Biggs’ law was specially catered for his county islanders.

After Gilbert filed the suit, Andy Biggs snuck in another special amendment that would force Gilbert residents to pay the legal fees in lawsuits against the formation of his special fire district. It was written specifically to apply to the Town of Gilbert.

In the first round of legal battles, a judge saw through the special legislation and shot down Biggs’ special law. Unfortunately that the same judge made us pay for the legal costs in stopping Biggs’ unconstitutional law. It ended up costing us over $292 thousand.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, under Don Stapley’s lead, filed an appeal against the lower court’s decision but that case also ended up losing in court. In it’s decision, the Arizona Court of Appeals stated that Andy Biggs’ law failed to be written in a constitutional manner.

This battle over Biggs’ expensive unconstitutional fire district became so heated that it spilled over as an issue in the 2006 elections. Biggs was challenged by a Gilbert resident but ended up winning reelection because most voters thought the issue was settled and other issues dominated. But not this voter.

Fast forward to 2016 and Andy Biggs is now running for Congress in my district. Ten years may have passed and the memories of some voters may have faded but I won’t be voting for Andy Biggs. He’s proven himself time and time again to be the ultimate career politician who’s only interested in one thing – what’s best for Andy Biggs.

It might seem like an eternity in politics but this Gilbert Republican won’t easily forget what’s been seared into memory of how another politician divided a community to serve his own personal interests.

Prop 123 Proponents Make Their Case on Arizona PBS’ Horizon

Advocates for Proposition 123 appeared on KAET’s Horizon on Monday evening to make the case for passage of Prop 123. Here is the video of that show featuring Chris Thomas, General Counsel for the Arizona School Boards Association:

Poll: Prop 123 Shows Strong Numbers With Early Voting Underway

Predictive Insights

Bi-partisan support for prop 123

PHOENIX (April 27, 2016) — Arizona’s special election for two statewide initiatives including the education bill, Proposition 123, will be voted on May 17th, 2016.

In a survey of 665 likely special election voters, 59.7 percent said they would vote in favor of Prop 123.

Prop 123 – Education Funding
April 25, 2016 Results
Definitely Yes 38.5%
Probably Yes 21.2%
Probably No 9%
Definitely No 24.4%
Unsure/Undecided 6.9%

“Early indicators show strong support for Proposition 123 across all demographics,” Mike Noble, Pollster & Managing Partner of OH Predictive Insights said, “It is surprising to see only 6.9% of likely voters are undecided which tells us voters are keenly aware of the measure.  If you hear someone talking about this next time you are in-line at the grocery store – don’t be surprised.”

Wes Gullett, Partner in OH Predictive Insights and political consultant was impressed that the Yes vote is strong across all demographics and was cautiously positive about the results. “Democrats, Republicans and Independents are all voting yes close to 60%.  However, with ballot measures typically the ‘No’ vote does a better than the polling on election day so the Yes side needs to have a strong turnout of supporters over the next three weeks,” Gullett said.

Methodology: This automated survey was completed by OH Predictive Insights on April 25th, 2016, from a sample of likely special election voters from across Arizona who first answered they were “likely” or “very likely” to vote in the 2016 May 17th special election in Arizona. The sample size was 665 completed surveys, with a Margin of Error of ± 3.8%

VIDEO: Parents are rallying behind Prop 123

Here is the latest ad by Prop 123 showing parents rallying behind the measure to get more money in their children’s classrooms.

Parents are rallying behind Prop 123 because it will put $3.5 billion into the classroom over the next 10 years. It will help Arizona schools pay teachers what they deserve and ensure our students have the resources they need in the classroom.
Share this video with a parent you know, so they know that a YES vote on Prop 123 is our best chance to improve our public schools.

Priorities: Governing vs. Campaigning

By East Valley Evan

It’s that weird time of the political season when conflicts arise revealing where politicians’ priorities really are.

Yesterday, leaders of the Arizona House and Senate reached a deal on how to divvy up sections of Governor Ducey’s budget proposal. That deal will be revealed today.

Setting aside the details of the deal, it’s worth pointing out where leaders of both chambers are spending their time as this process unfolds.

Every legislator acknowledges that the most important part of their job is to pass a budget that establishes the financial priorities for the State of Arizona. It’s what voters elect candidates to do and it’s the epitome of responsibility for legislators once elected.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]When it comes down to governing or campaigning, governing should always take priority.[/pullquote]

Citizens would think and expect leadership in the House and Senate to treat this constitutional obligation with the utmost attention. Apparently that obligation can take a back seat  if you’re a candidate for another office while holding down your leadership position in the legislature.

House Speaker David Gowan got it right (although he is avoiding interaction with members of the media these days) when he skipped a CD-1 candidate forum in Casa Grande Monday night. He stuck around the legislature to make sure the House wrapped up the budget deal.

It wasn’t the same on the Senate side. Senate President Andy Biggs was nowhere to be found in the State of Arizona. Instead, he is making the rounds in Washington, DC trying to raise money for his next government gig. According to the Arizona Republic:

Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler — who was acting as Senate president while Andy Biggs was in Washington, D.C., Monday fundraising for a congressional campaign… 

Senate President Biggs who has become the professional career politician obviously feels the need to fly back to Washington, rub elbows with lobbyists and return home with a bundle of campaign cash.

Meanwhile, his colleagues in the House and Senate will work through the details on how best to spend Arizona taxpayer dollars.

It’s all about priorities.

~ He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10)

WATCH: Get Out The Vote For Prop 123

Did you get your early ballot in the mail?

When you do, vote YES on Prop 123, and put it right back in your mailbox. If you plan to vote on Election Day, make sure you mark your calendar for May 17!

Why?

Prop 123 will put $3.5 billion into K-12 public schools over the next 10 years without raising your taxes. That’s money our kids and teachers need to succeed in the classroom.

Today, the campaign released a new video with parents, grandparents and teachers urging you to vote YES on Prop 123. It’s a common-sense solution that better uses our state land trust for its intended purpose: funding our public schools. And it protects the trust, which will still grow by $1 billion over 10 years if Prop 123 passes.

Can we count on you to vote YES on Prop 123?

Team Prop 123

Get the Facts on Prop 123

GetFacts123

Early voting has started, so we want to make sure you have the facts about Proposition 123 before you cast your ballot.  Prop 123 is a sustainable plan to fund K-12 education in Arizona and give teachers and students the resources they need.

Please forward this post to at least one friend or family member to make sure they have the facts before voting in the May 17 special election.

Get the facts below, visit YESProp123.com, or email contact@yesprop123.com if you have questions!

  • Prop 123 doesn’t raise taxes. Prop 123 uses additional dollars from the state land trust fund to give teachers and students the resources they need without raising our taxes. It’s a financially responsible and sustainable way to help our schools.
  • Prop 123 puts $3.5 billion into the classroom. This money will have a real impact over the next decade. It will give teachers and students stability and the resources they need to succeed.
  • Prop 123 gives local control to school districts. No one knows better where this money needs to go than principals, school board members, and teachers. Prop 123 will give individual districts control over the funds to ensure local decision-making and teacher input.
  • Prop 123 protects the trust. According to the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee, even with the higher distributions of funds from Prop 123, the state land trust will grow by over $1 billion over 10 years. The trust will continue to grow under Prop 123 so it can fund education for future generations.
  • Prop 123 keeps quality teachers. Teachers are fleeing Arizona because of a lack of financial support for education. This will reverse that trend and help pay our teachers what they deserve.

Learn more about why Prop 123 is a financially responsible solution in Robert Robb’s column, “Prop. 123 doesn’t bust the state land trust” below.

Thanks,

Team Prop 123

Gov Ducey: Why Vote For Prop 123? Some Teachers Have More Kids Than Books​

Vote Prop 123

By: Governor Doug Ducey

This week, Arizonans will receive early ballots in the mail for one of the most important policy initiatives of this election cycle – the passage of Proposition 123 to increase funding for public schools in Arizona.

As many in our state know, there has been a dark cloud hanging over Arizona’s budget when it comes to funding education.

Our kids have needs today

Voting “yes” on Prop. 123 will settle a years-long lawsuit and put $3.5 billion into our K-12 public schools over the next 10 years without raising taxes. It’s time to stop paying lawyers and start paying teachers.

I’ve visited schools all across our state, and the message is clear. Our kids have needs today, and our educators need more resources to do their jobs.

Prop. 123 is a fiscally responsible, historic first step towards giving our students and teachers the resources they need. It puts money back in the classroom. And it doesn’t raise taxes. I know it sounds almost too good to be true: If this doesn’t raise taxes, how are we paying for it?

How it works

What many don’t know is that Arizona has a something called the State Land Trust – a fund with assets that have been set aside and invested for decades specifically to benefit education. This plan ensures we are managing the trust responsibly while putting the money to use for the purpose it was intended: funding our K-12 public schools.

So how does it work?

When Arizona became a state, the federal government granted our founders nearly 11 million acres of state land. Every time we sell a piece of that land, proceeds go into the Land Trust where the money is invested and earns interest. The trust has been growing rapidly in value – nearly doubling in the past five years. And now it is valued at more than $5 billion.

Currently, only 2.5 percent of the trust is distributed to schools every year. We can do better. A “yes” vote on Prop. 123 will increase the distribution rate to 6.9 percent for the next 10 years. That means we will be able to use more of this money for its intended purpose: funding our schools.

We haven’t ignored future needs

But this plan also takes into account the needs of future generations. An analysis done by the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows that even with the higher distributions if Prop 123 passes, there will be more than $6 billion in the Land Trust in a decade. That’s a billion dollars more in the trust after 10 years, even while we are increasing funding to education.

And let’s not forget: Arizona still has 9.2 million acres of land worth approximately $70 billion that are yet to be sold and fund the trust.

The bottom line is that passing Prop 123 ensures the long-term health of the trust, while injecting an infusion of resources into classrooms that have needs today.

When there are more kids than books

I’ve met with teachers and parents across the state, and they’ve made it clear — while reforms are important, right now they need resources to provide the excellent education all our children deserve.

Too often, I hear stories of teachers and parents spending part of their paychecks to ensure there are supplies in the classroom – even basic necessities like pens, pencils and paper. This is unacceptable.

Just a few weeks ago, I met a fourth-grade teacher named Maddy Sporbert who was volunteering for Prop. 123. She told me that she wants Prop. 123 to pass because right now she has 34 students in her class, but only 25 textbooks.

She was spending spring break — her vacation — getting out the vote for Prop. 123 to ensure her students have enough textbooks next year. She needs us to vote “yes.”

Good teachers are fleeing our state

Eighth-grade science teacher Paul Strauss told me that in his many years of teaching he’s seen countless dedicated teachers leave the profession because it is so hard to support a family on a teacher’s salary in Arizona.

We know teachers are fleeing our state or leaving the profession because of a continued lack of funding for education. Voting “yes” on Prop 123 will allow us to reverse that trend and start paying teachers what they deserve. In fact, school boards across Arizona have committed that boosting teacher salaries will be their number one priority if Prop. 123 passes.

Many districts even have two budgets: one if Prop. 123 passes, and one if it fails.

If it fails, that means more litigation and less certainty for our teachers and students.

Please join me, Mayor Greg Stanton, a bipartisan coalition of legislators, countless community and business leaders, teachers and parents in voting “yes” for Prop. 123 on May 17.

WATCH: Teachers Explain Why They Support Prop 123

img_2434.jpg

Today, we released our latest ad where teachers explain why it’s so important to support Prop 123.
If Prop 123 passes, $3.5 billion will flow into school districts across the state over the next decade.

This is all possible without raising taxes and it will provide students much-needed stability so they have every opportunity to learn, achieve and succeed.

But, these teachers and students need your help to ensure Prop 123 passes.

Please sign up to volunteer using the button below, to help spread the word about why it’s SO IMPORTANT to vote YES on May 17.

VOLUNTEER FOR PROPOSITION 123

 

ATRA: AG Audit Harshly Critical of GPLET

ATRA

By Jennifer Stielow

A recent audit by the Arizona Auditor General (AG) revealed many critical flaws surrounding the calculation, collection, distribution, and reporting of the Government Property Lease Excise Tax (GPLET).

According to the AG’s review of 268 leases, nearly half are currently under eight-year abatement; and therefore, no revenue is being collected. Forty-five percent of the leases examined are paying GPLET under the rate structure that existed prior to 2010 that imposes a dramatically lower tax burden than the current GPLET rates. Of all the leases audited, only 16 (6%) are subject to the new GPLET rates. As a result, the AG found that the 2010 GPLET revisions have not resulted in increased revenue as expected because so few leases pay tax under the new rate structure.

Additionally, the AG found many examples where the incorrect GPLET was calculated because either the wrong rates were used and/or not all of the property subject to GPLET was included. In fact, in certain instances lessees failed to remit GPLET payments altogether.

The audit also found that the distribution of GPLET revenues by county treasurers was done incorrectly by using the distribution percentages for property tax rather than GPLET, which are different. Furthermore, although county treasurers are required to assess penalties and interest on delinquent payments, none did so.

There are several reporting requirements under GPLET, one of which requires county assessors to annually report the value of all GPLET property, which includes properties under abatement, to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). The AG found that only three of the seven counties that have GPLET deals reported the valuation of GPLET properties to ADE. This is a major cause for concern since underreporting GPLET values to ADE requires the state general fund to pay more in state aid payments to school districts than otherwise required. Overall, auditors’ interviews with city, town, and county officials indicated a general lack of understanding of GPLET requirements and recommended the Legislature modify statutes to address GPLET deficiencies.

This special audit was a requirement of the 2010 legislation that enacted several revisions to GPLET. The purpose of the audit was to determine if the revisions resulted in a viable revenue source in lieu of an ad valorem property tax on possessory interests for counties, cities and towns, community colleges, and school districts.

Originally enacted in 1996 as a successor to the possessory interest tax, GPLET allows government to enter into lease agreements with private entities to use government-owned property for private use and be subject to an excise tax in lieu of a property tax. By 2010, cities had dramatically expanded their use of the eight-year abatement. Additionally, the tax liability under the existing GPLET rate structure was not only considerably lower compared to the property tax, but the entire tax obligation disappeared at fifty years.

In an effort to address some of the inequities with GPLET, the 2010 legislation limited the size of Central Business District (CBD) boundaries for leases who qualify for the eight-year abatement. A new rate structure was implemented that nearly doubled the existing rates, and while rates under the old structure dropped 20% every ten years until reaching zero by the fiftieth year, the new rates are adjusted annually by the producer price index for new construction indefinitely. Finally, the legislation prospectively limited GPLET deals to a maximum of 25 years, including any abatement period, at which time the government lessor is required to convey the property to the prime lessee and the property is then placed on the property tax rolls.

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The Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) is the only statewide taxpayer organization representing a cross section of Arizona individuals and businesses. Organized in 1940, ATRA is the largest and most respected independent and accurate source of public finance and tax policy information. ATRA represents taxpayers before policy makers at the state and local level. ATRA’s fundamental belief is that every governmental expenditure is directly related to a tax. ATRA’s goal is efficient statewide government and the effective use of tax dollars through sound fiscal policies.