Today: May 31 , 2020
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Arizona enacted net tax relief during its 2019 legislative session.

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A new report by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) recognizes Arizona as one of just six states to enact “substantial net tax relief for its citizens” during the 2019 legislative session.

Arizona’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget built on the tax relief passed as part of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to make Arizona’s code simpler, flatter and more fair. Arizona’s reforms—the most significant of the past 30 years—prioritized middle and low-income earners, increasing Arizona’s standard deductions to $12,000 for individual filers and $24,000 for married filers. For the first time in Arizona, the state standard deduction matches the federal standard deduction, representing a significant simplification of the tax code.

Families are also benefiting from a new $100 child tax credit, as are nonprofits and charities thanks to a new charitable tax deduction that encourages donations to organizations that help those most in need. For the median income tax filer, last year’s tax reform has meant annual relief of roughly $135 after conformity.

“Hardworking Arizonans deserve to keep more of the dollars they earned,” said Governor Ducey. “Since 2015, Arizona has reduced and simplified taxes — while investing in the things that matter. Not only are families and individuals seeing greater tax relief, Arizona continues to increase our competitiveness as the best state in the nation to start and scale a business. My thanks to all our legislative partners for working with us to provide Arizonans tax relief and keep our state strong and competitive."

“As we’ve simplified our tax code and returned more dollars to taxpayers, we’ve seen more growth and opportunity,” said Arizona Representative Ben Toma. “The smart decisions of today will benefit current and future generations of Arizonans for years to come, and I’m grateful to my colleagues and to the Governor for making pro-growth tax reform a priority.”

“Businesses and people from other states continue to move to Arizona for a reason,” said Arizona Senator Vince Leach. “While we are pursuing policies that promote jobs and keep taxes low on families and individuals, other states are taking the opposite approach. Thank you to Governor Ducey and my fellow legislators for leading on this important issue."

Highlights from the study are below:

SIMPLIFYING THE TAX CODE

“Arizona substantially cut personal income taxes by reducing the number of tax brackets from five to four and cut tax rates for nearly every bracket.”

“Arizona and Virginia deserve special mention for enacting exemplary pro-growth tax reforms… Their conformity legislation successfully clarified their respective state tax codes following the landmark federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reforms and also returned effective state-level revenue increases back to taxpayers through significant personal income tax reforms."

BROAD-BASED REFORM

“By increasing the state standard deduction to $12,200 and $24,400 for single and joint filers, respectively, removing the second-lowest personal income tax bracket, reducing rates for nearly every remaining personal income tax bracket, and creating a new dependent exemption, Arizona saved income earners an expected $680 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 tax liability compared to the federal tax conformity baseline if Arizona conformed without cutting taxes. Including revenue generating provisions inherent to federal tax conformity, such as effectively eliminating the personal and dependent exemptions, Arizona taxpayers can expect an estimated net $52 million in tax savings for FY 2020 compared to FY 2019.”

A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

“Arizona went one step further than merely making federal tax conformity revenue neutral. During the 2019 legislative session, Arizona used federal tax conformity as an opportunity to deliver a net tax cut to income earners. First, Arizona matched federal policy by raising the standard deduction to $12,200 and $24,400 for individual and joint tax filers, respectively. Second, Arizona eliminated the second lowest of its five total tax brackets, allowing more income to fall into the bracket with the lowest rate. Third, Arizona lowered personal income tax rates for three of the four remaining tax brackets. Finally, Arizona also established a tax credit of $100 for every dependent under 17 years of age and $25 for every dependent older than 17. Altogether, Arizona’s tax cuts removed an estimated $680 million in FY 2020 personal income tax liability. Factoring in the base-broadening provisions inherent to federal tax conformity and post-Wayfair sales tax increases, Arizona’s conformity legislation is expected to cut $52 million on net from income earners’ FY 2020 tax liability."

ARIZONA OUTPACING OTHER STATES

"This is the Grand Canyon State’s fifth appearance in State Tax Cut Roundup. Only Florida and North Carolina have been featured more often. This demonstrates Arizona’s commitment to pro-growth tax reforms in recent years. A competitive tax code has made Arizona one of the fastest growing states in the country at the expense of neighboring high-tax California and New Mexico. According to How Money Walks, Arizona has gained nearly $12 billion in annual adjusted gross income (AGI) from California and over $850 million in AGI from New Mexico since 1992. As California and New Mexico continue to pass net tax increases while Arizona makes its tax code more competitive, Arizona can expect to see additional economic growth and an increasingly vibrant state economy at the expense of its high-tax neighbors."

View the ALEC State Tax Cut Roundup HERE.

Youth suicide rates have reached a 20-year high.

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As the Covid19 Pandemic continues to push communities to the breaking point,there are several groups that have not been specifically noted as vulnerable. One of these groups is our teen community. While the virus may not be ravaging this group at the same rate as other groups, our teens are facing other serious issues that demand the attention of our local child advocates. Even before the pandemic, suicide has been the second leading cause of death in teens ages 15 to 19 worldwide, across all socio-economic groups. The U.S. World News Report, in an article dated June 18, 2019, stated that youth suicide rates have reached a 20-year high. While we may not be able to reach teens in other places, there is a lot we can do locally to reach out to our local youth.

The Prescott Valley Police Department recognizes the vulnerability of our local teens. Because the pre-frontal cortex of the brain in adolescents, the part that deals with impulse control and being able to fully understand consequences of actions, doesn’t develop until these teens are in their twenties, this age group may struggle with being able to see that our current situation is not permanent. Many of these kids come from less than ideal family situations, even before the quarantine. Domestic violence, neglect, social isolation, increased online activity and lack of adult supervision during this lockdown has only made their situations worse. There are no child advocates available to see the warning signs. Depression, drug and alcohol use, and other maladaptive behaviors go unnoticed.

The Prescott Valley Police Department would like to encourage all parents, grandparents, guardians, neighbors and friends to reach out to the teens in your sphere of influence and just check in with them. That small and seemingly unimportant interaction could be the defining moment in adverting a tragedy. If needed, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-248-TEEN (8255). We want all our citizens, young and old, to see a brighter tomorrow. We will get through this crisis together.

Prescott Valley Police Department can be contacted at (928) 772-9267 for non-emergencies, 911 for emergencies.

Thumb Butte Medical Center took a team to the Navajo Nation to run COVID-19 antibody tests.

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Thumb Butte Medical Center recently took a team of seven health professionals to the Navajo Nation, where they performed COVID-19 antibody tests for members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

“It was a great team effort along with Navajo tribal leaders. It was a great experience. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” said Dr. Hojat Askari, founder of the Thumb Butte Medical Center.

Askari noted that his team was shown generous hospitality while they were there. Local residents brought the team lunch and beverages throughout each day.

All in all, over 1500 tests were performed over the weekend, with all expenses donated by Thumb Butte Medical Center.

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“Miles of cars lined up for the testing. We tested first responders, Tribal leaders, families and children. After being tested, the children danced and celebrated when they found out they were negative,” Askari related with a wide smile.

Askari said that he would love to open a clinic in the White Mountain area someday. “Thumb Butte Medical Center is honored to help the Navajo Nation in their need. They approached us for help, we could not say no. They are such a lovely people.”

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Currently, Thumb Butte Medical Center offers drive-thru antibody testing 7 days a week in Prescott.

In addition, Thumb Butte Medical Center now has capabilities to do in-house PCR nasal swab testing for COVID-19, pneumonia, influenza and other infections. Results are available within 24 hours. If antibiotics are indicated, the test results will also provide information as to which medication will be the most effective. They are able to run tests for their own practice and for other local doctors.

“We are looking for ways to help more in the future, both the Navajo Nation and our local community,” Dr. Askari said.

Arizona cities and counties will get access to nearly $600 million in COVID-19 relief funding.

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Arizona cities and counties will get access to nearly $600 million in COVID-19 relief funding, part of the more than $1.8 billion awarded two months ago to Arizona under the federal CARES Act.

Larger jurisdictions received their funds directly from the federal government, but Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday that the remaining cities and counties in the state will get $441 million directly, based on population. They will also have access to another $150 million in emergency relief funds.

“Our office has met with mayors and county leaders to hear directly how COVID-19 is impacting their communities, and this plan delivers for them,” said Ducey, during a roundtable with a half-dozen mayors and county officials from around the state.

“It maximizes flexibility and prioritizes getting dollars quickly to where they’re needed most,” he said. “Key points the plan is focused on are maximizing flexibility, minimizing red tape and getting needed relief funds to local communities faster.”

Ducey said the $441 million in the AZCares Fund should be in local governments’ hands as early as Thursday. The other $150 million that has been set aside for local governments will be held in the Arizona Express Pay Program, which will be used to expedite cities’ requests for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses related to COVID-19.

The AZCares Fund payments range from $40,927 for the town of Winkelman to $29.6 million for Scottsdale, money that city officials had been saying is badly needed.

“Now more than ever it is so important that the CARES Act dollars are going to cities and towns because we are the ones at the front lines of this pandemic,” Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said before Wednesday’s announcement. “The sooner we get the CARES Act relief funds from the state, the sooner we can all work together to grow the economy.”

Counties and cities with more than 500,000 residents got funding directly from the federal government under the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security – or CARES – Act, which was signed into law in late March. Some officials had started to complain recently about the lag in getting funds out to the state’s smaller jurisdictions.

In a letter Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Greg Stanton of Phoenix and Ann Kirkpatrick of Tucson called on Ducey to “immediately allocate resources to our communities on the frontlines of this crisis” saying that further delays would “cause irreparable harm to our long-term recovery efforts.”

“Communities across Arizona have been hit hard by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic,” their letter said. “With revenues plummeting and the unanticipated costs of the response to this crisis, our cities and towns need a lifeline now.”

But officials at Wednesday’s announcement were not complaining.

“The governor met with us. We told him about the importance of flexibility when allocating these dollars and he delivered,” Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy said. “With these dollars, Sahuarita and communities around the state will be better equipped to protect public health and get our businesses up and running more quickly.”

Payments from the AZCares Fund announced Wednesday range from $40,927 for Winkelman to $29.6 million for Scottsdale. There are no restrictions on how local governments can spend the money, with Ducey and the mayors saying that flexibility is important for those dollars to be put to the best use.

The other part of the local funding, the $150 million Arizona Express Pay Program, will be available to local and tribal governments, state agencies, nonprofit health care providers, schools and fire districts. It will be managed by the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and be used to reimburse locals for expenses like personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and other pandemic-related costs.

Ducey said he wanted to be careful about spending the rest of the state’s CARES Act allotment from the federal government, saying it could be used to pay costs like unemployment benefits, for example.

U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar has proposed a bill to secure minerals from the U.S. for the U.S.

Summer safety tips for both pets and people.

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