Liberal Groups File Election Initiative to Increase Voter Fraud and Taxpayer Subsidies for Political Campaigns

For years liberal groups have aimed to unravel basic election integrity practices in the state of Arizona.  From repealing ballot harvesting to pushing for same day voter registration – the goal is a California-style free for all where anything goes.  Even amidst legal defeats that have forced California to remove staggering numbers of inactive and unverified voters from their rolls, extremists continue to try to import these same policies in our state.

Case in point, an initiative dubbed the “Fair Elections Act” was recently filed with the Secretary of State’s office and includes almost every possible measure to erode safe, secure and honest elections in Arizona.  

Among the worst of the provisions is the creation of a “democracy voucher” system which would furnish every registered voter with certificates of $50 – $150 in order to facilitate small dollar political contributions.  Despite claiming to be a tool to empower average Arizonans to exercise choice and their political voice, these funds would only be eligible to be given to candidates running via the Clean Elections Commission system. 

Democracy isn’t cheap either. 

Based upon current registration levels and the minimum and maximum allowable distributable certificates, $191 – $573 Million of hard-earned taxpayer dollars could be up for grabs by politicians.

How does the initiative purport to pay for this?  With a tax increase of course.  The proposal would raise the minimum corporate income tax from $50 to $150 – swiping the $100 increase for Clean Elections. In addition, it would allow an up to $500 dollar for dollar tax credit for contributions to the commission.  Although these revenue enhancers alone are no where near enough to cover the potential exorbitant costs, proponents are banking on the idea that there will be low voter participation in the program – proving even when you give people free money, they would rather not take it then give it to a politician.

The voucher program isn’t the only part of the measure with a hefty new price tag.  The initiative would also trigger automatic voter registration for citizens receiving a drivers’ license or updating their information with the DMV.  Within the 30-page initiative are tedious administrative requirements for inter-agency coordination to include the Secretary of State, Department of Transportation, Arizona Health Cost Containment and other agencies. 

Because not everyone getting their license or updating their information is eligible to vote, the initiative includes a complicated process for mailing citizens.  It would be incumbent upon the citizen to return the pre-stamped mailer to indicate they do not want to be registered to vote or that they are ineligible to vote.  The citizen has two years to complete missing or fix inaccurate information before their status as a registered voter is cancelled.  Even when their status as a voter is pending, they are able to vote if an election is occurring. 

No where in the initiative is it mentioned how the state will pay for the inevitable technology overhaul required to implement this “automatic voter registration system” or the onerous process for constant pre-stamped mailers. Even more glaring are the gaping opportunities for fraud.  Currently, it is so easy to register to vote in Arizona, the only excuse for not is apathy, laziness or ineligibility.  Placing the burden on someone in any of these categories to ask to be excluded in the voter rolls is a waste of time and money and sure to be a magnet for inaccuracies.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad ideas jammed packed into this election omnibus initiative.  Hopefully voters will see through this attempt to co-op the security of the Arizona ballot box and reject ideas that have destroyed the election integrity of states like California and Washington.

$700 Million and Growing: Arizona Enjoying Another Huge Budget Surplus

The Joint Budget Legislative Committee released their October Fiscal Update, and it was more good news for the state budget coffers. September tax receipts were $120 Million above the adopted budget forecast, an 8.7% increase over the prior year. The explosion in tax revenue has led JLBC to conclude that the state will finish with at least a $700 Million dollar budget surplus for FY 2020.

A large chunk of the surplus revenue rolled in at the end of 2019 fiscal year, coinciding with a surge in individual and corporate income tax filings that occurred in May and June after the approval of the state budget.

The explosion in revenue didn’t shock anyone following the income tax conformity debate at the legislature over the last 18 months. Arizona was one of the last states to conform with the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017, leaving taxpayers in a lurch on what tax laws to follow and forms to use. So, both individuals and corporate entities waited until conformity legislation was passed to then file with the state.

While JLBC stresses caution on the current revenue projections, it is hard not to see that a chunk of this surplus is the result of continued overcollection from the conformity tax increase. During negotiations on a proposed conformity fix, the legislature and Governor Ducey chose to adopt the low-end revenue estimate from the conformity tax hike.

The agreed upon package settled on an anticipated $220 million tax increase even though the Department of Revenue estimated it could be well north of $300 million in FY 2020. Though no one faults them for their cautious approach, it is now looking like the higher figure was much closer to the mark.

This isn’t the only tax change that will likely result in taxpayers paying more than expected to the state. The budget also included a new sales tax for online purchases, which went into effect over the summer. The revenue estimate included in the budget for the implementation of the online sales tax was $85 million annually, which was then offset by the legislature with a corresponding reduction of the income tax.

At the time a lot of skepticism surrounded the $85 million figure. Some groups, including the Arizona Tax Research Association, analyzed the data and believe that the revenue from taxing online sales could be closer to $300 million. It is still early, but based on the fact that every revenue projection is overperforming JLBC estimates, the higher figure will likely prove more accurate.

What does this mean for taxpayers? It means that they are still overpaying (and experiencing a tax hike) even with the passage of a conformity package that attempted to hold filers harmless last spring.

In order to address the overcollection, the responsible solution is for lawmakers to work toward returning a portion of the $700 million surplus back to hardworking taxpayers. The spending lobby, media and political establishment won’t like this, but it is the right thing to do. Plus, the gusher in new revenue is so large that other priorities can be additionally funded while implementing rate reductions.

Interestingly, some Republicans have expressed fear of political backlash if it appears that they are cutting taxes.  Setting aside the fact that voters generally like having their money returned to them in years when there is a large budget surplus, there is not a single politician in the state that will be able to dodge the issue of tax cuts in 2020.

President Trump will be at the top of ticket, and his signature achievement is the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in his first term. It is very likely that he will be running on a plan for a second round of tax cuts if he is reelected. Unless every member of the GOP intends to disassociate themselves from Trump and his 2nd term agenda, this is the horse they will be riding with next November.

Republicans will have a choice: run away from the idea of cutting taxes to address the overcollection of revenue or try going on the offensive by promoting a low tax, pro-growth agenda. We will see soon enough which path they choose.