Our View: Ducey’s veto smells of opportunistic cash grab

February 5, 2019

Gov. Doug Ducey is right that Arizona needs more economic security in the form of a better-funded rainy day fund.

Numerous tax cuts by the Legislature and the impacts of a volataile market over the last decade or so means the state isn’t as prepared to weather another financial storm as it should be. Yes, the Legislature and the governor ought to address that.

But make no mistake: Ducey’s Friday veto of a tax bill is an opportunistic cash grab. It’s an insult to Arizona taxpayers and the legislators who represent them.

The bill that Ducey vetoed was an attempt by Republican legislators to conform Arizona’s allowable income tax deductions to federal law and off-setting that with a drop in taxes. Basically, thanks to tax law changes created by last year’s federal tax cuts, Arizona stands to get a windfall of money it wouldn’t have normally received — estimates place the figure between $133 milllion and $200 million — because it means taxpayers are allowed fewer dedudtions than in the past.

Legislators sought to reduce the tax burden, creating a “revenue neutral” situation for the state but Ducey says that’s not an option.

Ducey, while vetoing the plan, criticized it as an “irresponsible measure that hastily changes Arizona’s tax laws without any reliable data to back it up.” He threatened to veto any budget that doesn’t align with the already-created tax forms. He went on to say there’s “plenty of time” to consider the issue and find ways of simplifying the state tax code for 2019 and beyond, but “last year is settled.”

The governor, however, is being disingenuous.

Ducey has known for a year that Arizona needed to conform the 2018 state tax code to federal changes. State Sen. J.D. Mesnard, a Republican from Chandler, says he brought the issue up in January 2018, and the governor’s spokesman declined then to comment on what Ducey wanted to do.

Furthermore, Lake Havasu City’s House Representative Regina Cobb said Friday the governor told legislators to wait when they tried to address tax conformity last year.

No, it’s clear Ducey had designs on the money as soon as he realized the state was in for a windfall, and was determined to ensure efforts to change that were not successful.

Arizona does need to beef up its piggy bank for a rainy day, but that should happen organically, via normal legislative processes, not because of a quirk of the law.

Fortunately, there’s a chance — though admittedly not a great one — for an override of his veto in the Legislature. It’s a shame lawmakers even have to consider it. On this matter, Ducey is out of step with Arizona, and he’s out of step with his own party.

— Today’s News-Herald

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