Arizona Advocacy Network

Government of, by and for the People

 

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Our Tea-Publican legislators appear not to believe that they were elected, but were divinely selected for office, which imbues them with power and priviliges far beyond the "citizen legislator" they are supposed to be.

Under the Arizona Constitution the citizens are a "super legislature," whose acts through citizens initiatives and referendums take supremacy over simple legislative acts. And our Tea-Publican legislators hate this because they believe that they have a divine right to lord over us, even though we elected them -- they despise the voters who elected them.

Our Tea-Publican legislature is advancing several bills to severely restrict or limit our rights as citizens of Arizona to enact citizens initiatives and referendums. Citizens initiatives are often the only way anything gets done in this state, given our regressive anti-government Tea-Publican legislature. AZ moves to limit voter-OK'd tax hikes:

State senators voted Monday for legislation that could undermine any effort by voters to increase their own sales taxes for education.

But its sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs, said it's not a "poison pill."

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Biggs said his legislation is a direct response to the initiative. He said he is opposed to anything that would permanently boost state revenues beyond what they would have been without the temporary tax hike. [The temporary one-cent hike in sales taxes in 2010 was part of the plan to balance the budget and avoid even deeper cuts in education and public safety.]

He said, though, that this should not be seen as a pre-emptive bid to thwart the will of voters.

Yes, it is.

SB 1155 says that if the state sales tax on June 1, 2013, is any higher than it was on May 31, 2010, the Department of Revenue must cut income tax rates enough to wipe out any increase in revenue.

This is zero-growth budgeting. If the voters believe that education, for example, is a priority that deserves more funding and enact a revenue source to support this priority through a citizens initiative, this bill would allow the legislature to negate the will of the voters by reducing state revenues eleswhere and digging our structural revenue deficit deeper, creating a perpetual budget crisis that will always require more budget cuts.

It is both retaliatory and punitive for the citizens exercising their rights under the Arizona Constitution. It is the reckless act of ideological extremists and is fiscally irresponsible.

Biggs said there is a way for initiative supporters to get around what he is doing. He said they can craft their measure to spell out that, if approved, it overrules any conditional tax cuts previously approved by the Legislature.

This is a trap: the single-subject rule for initiatives. Nice try.

Of course, the measure gained preliminary approval on a voice vote; a final roll-call vote, set for later Tuesday, would send the legislation to the House.

On a separate front, the Senate gave final approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would put an eight-year limit on any and all voter-approved spending mandates or tax increases.

But SCR 1031 is even broader than that. It is retroactive, meaning even the program approved as far back as 1998 would have to be reauthorized.

This is not a "sunset review" law, which I would tend to support, but is an ex post facto law, which is unconstitutional. Not that Sen. "Don't make me angry" Frank Antenori cares about what is constitutional or lawful:

Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, acknowledged that would require groups that successfully persuaded voters to approve some measure the first time to wage a new campaign every eight years to keep it in place. But he said that does not have to be a financial hardship.

"If it's a good initiative, they shouldn't have to spend anything defending it," Antenori said.

I tell you what Frank, why stop at 1998? Why not make your little law retroactive for all citizen intiatives involving taxes and revenue? Could it be that you do not want to sweep Prop. 108 (1992) into the ambit of your ex post facto law?

Prop. 108 imposed the two-thirds super-majority requirement in both chambers to increase any tax or to reduce any tax exemption or credit. It is the single greatest obstacle to any meaningful tax reform that the citizens of this state were foolish enough to enact. If we ever want to get out of the mess we are in with structural revenue deficits, Prop. 108 needs to be repealed. But Frank doesn't want to go there.

"If you vote for an initiative, it's etched in stone," Antenori said. "It cannot be undone unless somebody goes out and goes through the arduous process of getting 250,000-some odd signatures and gets it on the ballot."

That, however, is not entirely accurate: Lawmakers are free to put questions back on the ballot with a simple majority vote of the House and Senate [that they oppose].

Lawmakers are currently considering doing exactly that, placing an item on the November ballot seeking to effectively repeal the 1998 voter-approved laws allowing candidates for statewide and legislative office to obtain public funds for their campaigns. [Citizens Clean Elections.]

Antenori said that is technically possible but politically difficult because "the media criticize us for so-called undoing the will of the people by referring it back to the ballot."

Making it automatic, he said, avoids that debate.

And absolves these cowards from media criticism for undoing the will of the people. It is becoming clear that for all legislative-approved referendums on the ballot this November, "Just Say No" is the campaign.