We should lessen dependence on sales tax
Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia - Nov. 14, 2009 12:00 AM
Special for the Republic
For more than a year, Democrats have been calling for tax reform to address the state budget.
We provided a number of complete alternative budgets that would have helped to pull Arizona out of this fiscal crisis while lessening the state's reliance on an unreliable sales tax.
I am thankful to Senate President Bob Burns for taking the courageous leap to support a tax referral to the voters that will help to transition Arizona during this financial downturn and provide a semblance of stability for the immediate future ("Conservative calls for sales-tax hike," My Turn, Nov. 3).
I disagree, however, with President Burns' assertion that Arizona's financial difficulties are the result of overspending - overspending that occurred while Republicans controlled both the House and Senate.
But was it overspending? The previous administration gained a $1.1 billion increase for essential services such as Child Protective Services, prisons, highway-patrol officers, university funding and all-day kindergarten. In return, the Republicans walked away with $800 million in permanent tax cuts that, from an accounting standpoint, amount to additional spending.
Nevertheless, here we are. The state budget is in crisis and the Legislature needs to make many difficult decisions. We need to reduce spending and increase revenue.
The easiest way to increase revenue is also the most difficult for Republicans. And while it is the Legislature's constitutional duty to raise taxes when the circumstances require it, my Republican colleagues do not have the political fortitude to do so. So we punt that political football to the voters and ask them to approve a sales-tax increase.
But we should not ask voters to increase the taxes they pay and then turn around and cut taxes for big business.
Democrats have continuously maintained that we do not support a tax increase on voters that, rather than going to enhance education, will be used to pay for tax cuts.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who has advocated for the tax increase, has flip-flopped a number of times on when she would support decreasing business taxes. She has said she would not support tax cuts for the long term without a comprehensive approach but is reportedly looking at cutting both business property taxes and the capital-gains tax.
One thing seems clear: Gov. Brewer supports raising taxes on Arizonans who are financially struggling in a downturn, but she still wants to cut taxes for businesses.
In the short term, Senate Democrats remain supportive of allowing the voters to decide whether to raise sales taxes that will be used to offset massive cuts to education and services for the poor.
In the long term, however, the Legislature must find the courage to comprehensively review our tax structure and lessen our dependence on our unreliable sales tax.
Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia is the Democratic leader in the Arizona Senate. He can be reached by phone at 602-926-4171 and e-mail at email@example.com.