Commentary

Investments in people or tax cuts for the wealthy? That’s the real dividing line in Arizona politics

November 17, 2021 9:57 am
redistricting

Illustration by teddyandmia | iStock / Getty Images Plus

Donald Trump, cancel culture, fake news, critical race theory, border wall.

Those are the soundbite issues Arizona Republicans are focused on for 2022 because they believe those are the issues that will motivate their base.

Meanwhile, Democrats are focused on…well, I’m not so sure what they’re focused on. Unfortunately, the party has never been great at creating a unified messaging strategy around soundbite policy.

But if you look at what happened in the most recent legislative session as well as what’s happening in Congress, you’ll see an obvious dividing line between the two sides that can be summed up with this question: Do voters want more tax cuts for the wealthy or investments in people?

I believe the answer is the latter, and I’m not sure why Democrats aren’t doing everything in their power to make this difference obvious.

Republican candidates will continue to focus on things like 'cancel culture' and 'fake news,' because they have no winning record to run on.

– Julie Erfle

After the Arizona Legislature passed its most recent budget, I made the case that it was a missed opportunity of historic proportions.

Legislators had the chance to make long-promised investments in education, to raise teacher pay to the national average, restore funding for full-day kindergarten and stop shortchanging special education students.

Instead, Republicans chose a massive tax giveaway for the rich, one that will shower millionaires with hundreds of thousands of dollars while working class Arizonans get a sprinkle of pennies.

Education groups realize massive tax cuts mean less money for education, and they managed to gather enough signatures to refer the flat tax fiasco to the ballot in 2022. But it remains unknown whether voters will have the last say, as legislators could repeal the tax cut during the next session, then bring it back the following year — something they’ve done before.

Regardless of what happens with the referendum, Democrats can now make the argument in favor of investments by pointing to what’s happened at the federal level.

Donald Trump’s biggest policy win was his 2017 tax cut, which passed on party lines and gave millionaires and corporations a big, beautiful windfall, while doing little for middle-class Americans. Promises of explosive economic growth never materialized. Instead, wealth inequality swelled and the national deficit exploded.

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President Joe Biden is less than a year into the job, but he’s already delivered much bigger results for the average Arizonan through the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act.

The rescue plan offered additional resources to small businesses as well as emergency rental and homeowner assistance, and it gave billions to state and local governments to help fund vaccine distribution, increased health care costs and educational learning losses.

But perhaps the most significant — and most overlooked — provision was that it greatly increased the child tax credit and put money into the hands of parents immediately, lifting approximately three million children out of poverty.

That’s not giving lip service to “family values.” That’s walking the talk and putting policy into action.

The infrastructure bill will also positively impact Arizonans with money for major highway projects, public transportation, clean water, bridge repair, lead pipe replacement, wildfire management and rural broadband construction.

The projects in the American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure and Jobs Act are so popular that even politicians who spend their days trashing Biden on social media are trying to claim credit for them.

It should be noted that all four Republicans in our congressional delegation voted against both the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure bill, meaning they voted against safe water and bridges and money to battle wildfires and help families climb out of poverty.

That’s why Republican candidates will continue to focus on things like “cancel culture” and “fake news,” because when it comes to policies that help working-class Arizonans, they have no winning record to run on.

Democrats can’t let Republicans control the message. They should ignore the distractions and focus on what they’ve been able to accomplish in Congress and how that’s possible here in Arizona, as well. That’s how they can win in 2022.

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Julie Erfle
Julie Erfle

Julie Erfle hails from North Dakota, but has called Arizona home for more than twenty years. She began her career in Phoenix as a creative services producer at KPHO-TV5 and 3TV. Blending her background in communications with her passion for community activism, Julie launched the political blog Politics Uncuffed in 2011, and began working as a communications director and consultant on candidate and initiative campaigns. She is the former executive director of Progress Now Arizona, a progressive communications and advocacy non-profit, and a fellow with the Flinn-Brown Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and Leading for Change.

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