Honoring the Will of the Voters

I’m sure this scenario sounds all too familiar to frustrated Arizona taxpayers…

A school district decides to hold a bond or budget override election to request additional money, and you and your neighbors successfully defeat the measure at the ballot box.  You breathe a sigh of relief assuming that the issue is settled, yet the following year the SAME EXACT REQUEST IS ON THE BALLOT!  It is as if they completely ignored the election and will keep going to the voters until they get what they believe is the “right” answer.

If this is what it feels like, it is not your imagination.  Under current Arizona law, school districts are permitted go to the voters as many times as they want to request a budget override, regardless of election outcomes. In fact, many districts that have voter approved overrides will go back to the ballot 3 or 4 times, if necessary, for a new override before the previous override has even expired.

Taxpayers shouldn’t be subjected to unending budget requests, and school districts should honor the will of the voters. That is why we are thrilled to see Sen. Yarbrough sponsor Senate Bill 1182, which would place a limit on how many times a budget override may be sent to the ballot.  Under SB 1182, a school district will only be allowed to ask voters for one extension of an existing override.  If the request fails, then the district must wait until the existing override expires before going back to the voters.

SB 1182 will be up for a vote in Senate Finance this week, so please contact the members of the committee and ask them to support this common sense reform.  Let them know that the will of the voters should be respected.

Solar Industry Looking for More Subsidies

Solar Industry Looking for More Subsidies

In Arizona there is not an industry more subsidized than the solar industry. They get tax credits, rebates, cash grants and even a monthly subsidy through the net metering program at the Corporation Commission. There are thousands of dollars in special tax breaks for renewable energy on the books, all being paid for by non-solar customers.

Now they want a property tax break as well.  House Bill 2358 will manipulate how property taxes are calculated on solar equipment, slashing the property tax burden for solar customers. It’s a great deal, unless you don’t have solar.  Then your property taxes INCREASE to pay for this giveaway.

This is just another scheme to pick winners and losers at taxpayer’s expense. The legislature needs to reject this bad idea and look to treat all energy users equally.

Phoenix Pension Reform Committee Launched

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club has launched an initiative campaign to reform the  City of Phoenix pension and employee retirement system.   The initiative will be called the Phoenix Pension Reform Act.

The initiative seeks to repair the broken pension system for City of Phoenix employees, which is currently only 62.2% percent funded. This initiative will also end the abusive practice of pension spiking, which allows city employees to receive six-figure pension windfalls that were never earned and are paid for by taxpayers.

The Phoenix Pension Reform Act would make changes to the way the pension system functions for new city employees hired after the initiative is approved by the voters and takes effect.  Those changes would create a defined contribution system along the same lines as a 401K-style retirement plan for new city employees.  Current employees would stay on the plan in which they are currently enrolled although they will have the option of switching to the new plan. The initiative does those who have already retired, or any participants of the Public Safety Retirement System (police and fire fighters).

We believe that the changes being proposed are long overdue and will protect city taxpayers, current employees and retirees from the irresponsible politicians that refuse to address our current pension crisis. If city hall can’t fix abusive practices like pension spiking, then the voters need to be given the opportunity to decide the issue.  To learn more about the initiative, click here.
Phoenix Credit Downgrade a Sign of Things to Come

Phoenix Credit Downgrade a Sign of Things to Come

The decision by Standard and Poor’s to downgrade Phoenix’s credit rating late last month should have been a wake-up call to city leaders that it is time to get serious about addressing the growing pension and debt crisis slowly swallowing the city budget. Phoenix already has accumulated more than $2.4 Billion in unfunded pension liabilities, and retirement costs continue to escalate for taxpayers.

Action is needed, yet according to the City Manager Ed Zuercher, all is well. After hearing of the downgrade, Mr. Zuercher declared that “A lot of this is not within our control.” Apparently when City Hall accumulates large amounts of debt and spends too much, that is not really their fault.

If billions in debt and a credit downgrade won’t spur our elected leaders into action, nothing will. Real reform will have to come from the voters, and that is why the Arizona Free Enterprise Club is leading the charge on the 2014 Phoenix Pension Reform Act. This citizen’s initiative will be a grassroots effort to reform our out of control pension system by ending pension spiking, reducing costs and unfunded liabilities, and by modernizing our retirement system for future employees while honoring the promises made to current and future retirees.

Mr. Zuercher is wrong, addressing our debt and improving our credit rating IS within our control. The Pension Reform Act will put Phoenix back on the path of fiscal sustainability, instead of down the road of potential bankruptcy.