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Brewer signs bill stocked with tax exemptions

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer explains during an impromptu press conference following the passage of her Medicaid expansion plan that she and her advisors had considered having the legislative leadership ousted in order to pass it. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

A bill that began its life as a small tax break for companies that rent ignition interlock devices for people with DUI convictions but ended up as a catch-all for tax breaks that lawmakers could find no other place to stash in the Legislature’s final hours is now law.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1179 sponsored by Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, on Thursday. It exempts interlock companies from the state’s sales tax on rentals. State auditors at the Department of Revenue required the companies to begin paying tax several years ago, and they went to the Legislature to get an exemption. They argued that they don’t really rent the devices and the Legislature agreed.

The state estimates the loss in yearly tax revenue at about $600,000.

As lawmakers rushed to adjournment last week, those with bills that had languished looked for places for them to land. House members with tax breaks in mind found SB1179, adding four amendments in the late-night hours of June 13.

The bill was amended to exempt a company that sells energy drinks that also was hit with an unexpected tax and a large fine and to do the same for destination management companies that broker travel arrangements.

Rep. Tom Forese, R-Chandler, said he put those two provisions into the bill at the last minute to right a wrong.

“This is the tale of two DOR abuses,” Forese said. “DOR is predatory on small businesses.”

Another provision allows people who don’t itemize to take charitable deductions, a change that is expected to cut state revenue by $19 million. Yet another greatly increases deductions for college savings accounts, from $750 to $2,000 for a single individual or head of household and from $1,500 to $4,000 for married couples filing jointly. That will cost the state nearly $4 million in yearly revenue.

Biofuel manufacturers also got a big break, extending a property tax cut set to expire in 2016 until 2023.

The Republican-controlled Legislature wasn’t split on the issue, with the Senate and House voting unanimously to pass the bill.

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