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Mayors: Special-interest tax break harms cities, hurts public safety

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell

As mayors, some of our top priorities include keeping neighborhoods safe, maintaining high quality of life and attracting high-wage jobs to our communities.

Unfortunately, there is a bill at the state Legislature that seeks to undermine those priorities in the vast majority of cities and towns across Arizona. We stand united against it on behalf of our residents.

Led by the Arizona Multihousing Association, HB 2254 seeks to repeal a business-transaction tax on rental properties that has been in place for more than 40 years.

Let’s be clear about the bill’s intent: It would be a special-interest tax break for one industry. The landlords that should be paying this tax already have chosen to pass it on to renters. If a tax break is approved, it will increase profits for the rental and apartment industry with absolutely no mechanism for assuring this tax break will end up lowering rents for consumers.

It poses a huge, needless hit to cities and towns. It would strip away $87 million a year from municipalities across our great state and upend the decades-long policy of transaction privilege taxes as the primary source of local revenue. Our system taxes business transactions – and renting a property is clearly a business transaction.

Jay Tibshraeny

Jay Tibshraeny

But let’s not get in the weeds about tax policy. Here’s what’s important: This revenue stream pays for vital services residents rely on every day – things like police, firefighters, parks, streets, libraries and other critical needs necessary to maintain a high quality of life for residents.

For example, in Tempe, more than two-thirds of the revenue generated by this tax comes from apartment complexes. It is appropriate and reasonable for cities to recoup some of the impacts those complexes have on streets, parks, emergency services and more.

Don’t take our word for it. Have a conversation with your local firefighters or police officers – there’s a reason public-safety groups are opposing this bill. It strikes at the heart of municipal general fund revenues, the majority of which go to public safety.

Unlike those who propose and support this bill, mayors and councilmembers across Arizona don’t have the luxury of living in an ideological box. We work every day to create quality jobs for the residents in this state.

Cities and towns are economic engines that provide the services, infrastructure and quality-of-life amenities that companies look for when they make decisions to expand or relocate.

Mark Nexsen

Mark Nexsen

This bill doesn’t create jobs. In fact, it kills jobs.

What’s equally troubling about this bill is the lack of critical thought and outreach about its impacts. There is no consideration of how cities have already tightened their belts during and since the Great Recession. We are not willing to have our residents lose vital services because cities have already cut millions of dollars from their budgets.

Please join us in opposing HB 2254 – it is a special-interest tax break at the expense of all Arizonans.

– Mark Mitchell is mayor of Tempe; Jay Tibshraeny is mayor of Chandler and Mark Nexsen is mayor of Lake Havasu City. The mayors are president, vice president and treasurer, respectively, of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

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