Arizona: Fake News, Bad News, and Mildly Good News

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How bad is Arizona’s budget situation?  Well, let’s put it this way:  the Daily Show may soon air a segment examining, in its own inimitable way, a proposal to sell, and then to lease back, a variety of state-owned property and buildings as a means of generating more than $700 million in the current fiscal year – and that proposal was just signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer.  Not only that, but that proposal was one of the few pieces of the budget that the Governor and the other members of her party, who happen to control both chambers of the Arizona legislature, could agree upon. 

The other seven bills that comprise the state’s fiscal year 2010 budget – none of which raise taxes and one of which would reduce them by some $250 million per year, a deficit of more than $3 billion notwithstanding – still await the Governor’s signature.  Hopefully, the Governor will continue to hold out for a ballot initiative that would temporarily raise the state’s sales tax to help address the state’s enormous revenue shortfall. Still, even if she succeeds and the initiative passes, a new analysis from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee indicates that budget deficits of more than $2 billion will return in FY 2012.

Not all of the tax policy news out of Arizona this week is bad, however.  A recent Arizona Republic expose found that the state’s school tuition organization tax credit not only failed to achieve its alleged goal of assisting low-income students, but also is vulnerable to rampant abuse by self-interested parents. In response, the second largest school tuition organization in the state, the Catholic Tuition Organization for the Diocese of Phoenix, announced that it would no longer allow donors to engage in one of the abusive practices in question, namely, specifying which students would receive the scholarship funded by the donor’s tax subsidized bequest.  (As the Republic found, less-than-scrupulous parents were coordinating with friends, family, and neighbors to name each other’s children as the beneficiaries of their tax-supported donations.)  Still, given that those taxpayers who claim the credit are far wealthier than most Arizonans, it may be time for the credit to be scrapped altogether

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