Judgment Day has arrived. On Tuesday, May 18, voters will decide the fate of Proposition 100, the temporary, one-cent-per-dollar sales tax.
We urge you to vote yes.
Look, we would rather not need to raise the sales tax. And we can offer no guarantee that this particular group of lawmakers won't try to find a way to try to cut other taxes when they get together next session.
But we know what legislators will do if we don't pass the sales tax: They'll take it as a mandate to further eviscerate a state government that already looks like it's been devoured by a pack of rabid badgers.
Almost everything this state has advanced in the last decade has been lost. All-day K? No funding. Treatment for the mentally ill? Slashed. GED and adult-education courses? No support from the state. State parks? Closed. Investment in the science and tech sector? Vaporized. Support and counseling for at-risk families? Evaporated. An endowment for the arts? Erased. Highway rest stops? Shut down.
Welcome to the new Arizona.
Let's not kid ourselves: Losing these things means the state's future looks bleak. And the nearly $900 million in cuts that will come if the sales tax does not pass would mean even less money for our schools, our universities, our social services and our public safety.
Lawmakers have already made it clear that if the sales tax does not pass, some state costs will get passed down to the cities, school districts and counties—which means higher property taxes for even fewer services.
And with the state spending less money, we will lose out on more than $442 million in federal matching funds, which means fewer outside dollars coming into our state. How does that make any sense at all?
We'll remind you who supports this tax: The firefighters. The cops. The chambers of commerce. The teachers. The hospitals. The churches. And, of course, the Tucson Weekly.
Once upon a time, we cared enough about our state to invest in it.
Show that you still care about our future by voting yes on Prop 100.
UA economist Alberta Charney, who has been crunching the numbers to determine the economic impact of the proposed one-cent-per-dollar sales tax, has been in a war of words with the Beacon Hill Institute of Massachusetts, which produced its own economic study at the behest of the Goldwater Institute.
Not surprisingly, considering the Goldwater Institute's agenda, the Beacon Hill numbers show that the sales-tax increase will be an economic disaster for Arizona, costing 9,155 jobs.
Charney, who ran the numbers through the standard economic models that economists use, came up with a much different conclusion: She discovered that while there would be a loss of 7,400 jobs in the private sector, that would be overshadowed by the 20,500 jobs that would be preserved if the state didn't have to cut $867.5 million and lose $442 million in federal matching funds.
Charney could not get her results to come anywhere near the numbers generated by Beacon Hill, which created its own economic model to come up with the result that the state would lose jobs.
One major problem: Beacon Hill's model is rigged to always deliver negative economic results, says Charney.
"The STAMP model (used by Beacon Hill) incorporates every conceivable negative consequence of taxes that can be built into a model, regardless of the level of taxes in the state," Charney wrote. "It is built to compute negative tax effects."
We can't say we're surprised. We don't have the space to dig into this any deeper in our print edition—but we do at The Range, our daily dispatch of news and wisdom, at blog.tucsonweekly.com.
But we'll add this: We're not economists, but we know we trust the gang at our local Eller School much more than we trust an outfit with a political agenda to oppose tax increases.
We'll give the last word to Charney.
"Arizona is a state that has benefited enormously from government investments throughout its history, yet there are those who would deny that government activities are important to the well-being and continued development of the state," Charney writes in her response. "A major portion of the land we currently call Arizona was purchased from Mexico by the federal government. And where would Arizona be without the Roosevelt Dam, the interstate highway system, the Central Arizona Project, our regional highways, or the universities, community colleges and the entire educational structure in the state?"
Fans of Latin hip-hop band Cypress Hill probably aren't the biggest supporters of SB 1070, but they're the ones who are losing out after the band cancelled an appearance later this month at downtown's Rialto Theatre, citing SB 1070 as the reason.
We fear this is just the start, as a boycott of Arizona takes hold in the wake of Arizona's new immigration bill.
We doubt that the lawmakers who supported SB 1070 could give a rat's ass about a hip-hop show in downtown Tucson, or the money that the nonprofit Rialto Theatre Foundation will lose as a result of the cancellation. (See this week's Soundbites for more information.)
But they may soon learn that poisoning the tourism waters doesn't help the state's economy.
In the last week, we've heard about two organizations—the Glass Art Society and the Alliance for Community Media—canceling 2011 conventions in Tucson.
Tom Philabaum, of Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery, who estimates that he's put more than 800 hours into organizing the Glass Art Society convention, says the news that the organization had canceled felt like "a kick in the stomach."
But Philabaum is working to reposition the convention as a local festival next spring, with exhibitions at local museums and galleries. He hopes the show will go on, even if the Glass Art Society's convention will end up taking place in Seattle.
Here's what we need to worry about: The convention business is a competitive one that's just starting to recover in the wake of the Great Recession. If organizers fear that coming to Arizona will prove controversial, they'll head elsewhere—to Nevada, to California, to Texas.
That's a disaster for hotels, restaurants and other businesses that count on tourism dollars.
In other SB 1070 news: Two groups that wanted to put Arizona's new immigration law up for a public vote have abandoned their efforts. That's probably wise, given that voters may have supported SB 1070 at the ballot box, which would have left lawmakers unable to make any changes to the law.
Not that we expect the Legislature to make any changes soon. The real hope of opponents is that the courts will strike this one down.
Fashion matriarch Cele Peterson passed away last week at age 101. Cele was a force in our community as a businesswoman, social activist and concerned citizen who touched many, many lives in this cowtown.
Cele was also an early investor in the Tucson Weekly. TW founder Douglas Biggers tells us that at one particularly dicey moment in the paper's past, Cele sided with him instead of some fellas who wanted to take over the paper. If it hadn't been for that decision, the history of our scrappy little rag would have been different, indeed.
Thanks for all you did, Cele. You will be missed.
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