Arizona voters should reject big green tax on poor


Liberals love to talk about helping the poor and the middle class, so why are they pushing one of the most regressive taxes in modern times?

Proposition 127 would require half of Arizona electric power production by 2030 to come mostly from wind and solar power. Green groups and activists like billionaire Tom Steyer say that Prop. 127 will be virtually cost-free to Arizonans. Really? In my study for the Goldwater Institute, I examined the disappointing results of states like California, New York, and Vermont, which have been duped into similar energy regulations. States with renewable mandates of 50 percent or more, as required by 127, have average power costs that are roughly 50 percent higher than states that allow utilities to buy the cheapest energy from the power grid.

Stephen Moore
Stephen Moore

A recent Wall Street Journal analysis found that California, which has already moved to a 50 percent green energy mandate, charges businesses and families 67 percent more for electricity than cheaper states like Arizona. Thanks in part to its stringent renewable mandate, the WSJ reports, “California electricity rates have surged 30 percent since 2011 compared to an 8 percent increase nationwide.”

Florida, by contrast, which uses natural gas, solar energy, clean coal, and nuclear power and doesn’t have a clean energy mandate, has seen its utility costs fall by 3 percent over this same period. Does Arizona want to be like high-cost California or low-cost Florida?

Prop. 127’s hardest-hit victims will be low-income families. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the poor pay about five times more of their income on energy than rich families do. The energy mandate is Robin Hood in reverse: It steals from the poor to subsidize the rich.

These price hikes might make some sense if the scheme would actually clean the air—but it won’t. The mandate doesn’t include nuclear power or natural gas as “clean energy” sources, even though they’re among the environmentally safest producers of energy. Even coal-burning plants are far cleaner today than 30 years ago with pollution reductions of 30, 40 and even 50 percent for lead, carbon monoxide, and smog.

The initiative would foolishly restrict Arizona’s natural gas use at a time when America is in the midst of the biggest shale gas boom in history. Natural gas prices have fallen over the past decade by 70 percent, thanks to domestic shale gas production. Conversion to natural gas is the reason the United States has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions more than virtually any other nation over the last decade.

Nuclear energy is even cleaner because it emits virtually zero air pollutants into the atmosphere. Why would a green mandate exclude nuclear and potentially force the closure of the Palo Verde plant employing hundreds of Arizonans?

Yes, sunny Arizona is an ideal state for solar power. As it gets cheaper, the state should use solar whenever it makes financial sense. But politicians shouldn’t force you to buy it regardless of cost. It doesn’t make sense to insert into the state Constitution a requirement on energy use that locks Arizona into 50 percent wind and solar. Betting the state’s financial future and job base on wind and solar power is a huge risk to Arizona’s economic health.

— Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and author of “Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy” (Regnery, 2015). His new study for the Goldwater Institute is: “Arizona’s ‘Clean Energy’ Initiative: All Pain, No Gain.”


The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

Tucson vaccine mandate illegal, AG says

In this Jan. 7, 2020, file photo, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at a news conference in Phoenix. Brnovich says Tucson's vaccine mandate for city employees is illegal. Brnovich's decision Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, gives Tucson 30 days to repeal the mandate or lose millions of dollars in state funding. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)
In this Jan. 7, 2020, file photo, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at a news conference in Phoenix. Brnovich says Tucson’s vaccine mandate for city employees is illegal. Brnovich’s decision Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, gives Tucson 30 days to repeal the mandate or lose millions of dollars in state funding. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)

A Tucson ordinance requiring city employees to get vaccinated or face suspension is illegal, Attorney General Mark Brnovich concluded Tuesday.

In a letter to city officials, Solicitor General Beau Roysden, writing for Brnovich, said the Aug. 13 vote by the council directly conflicts with a statute approved in June by state lawmakers. It specifically prohibits state and local governments from requiring any person to be vaccinated for Covid.

Roysden acknowledged that, strictly speaking, SB1824 does not take effect until Sept. 29. But the attorney general wants an immediate halt to prevent what he said could be harm to city workers who are forced to roll up their sleeves, even for a law not yet in effect.

“Nothing is more coercive than a government mandate to do something that’s soon going to become illegal,” Brnovich told Capitol Media Services.

That echoes what is in the official findings.

“It is self-evidence that any negative side effects of a vaccine will not be undone merely on the general effective date of legislation,” the report states.

“And it will be cold comfort to city employees that state law unambiguously protects them after they were required to obtain a vaccine that they would not otherwise have obtained in the first place,” Brnovich continued. “Any harm at that point would have already occurred.”

The statements drew derision from Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin.

“I don’t understand how the attorney general can simultaneously acknowledge that the statute does not yet exist as law yet still say action by the city last month violates the ‘law,’ ” he told Capitol Media Services.

“The attorney general agrees that it is not the law,” Rankin continued. “That should be the end of it.”

Mayor Regina Romero agreed.

“It is deeply unfortunate, but not surprising, that the attorney general is prioritizing his political ambitions over his responsibility to objectively interpret the law,” she said in a prepared statement, with Brnovich running for U.S. Senate. “This report reads more as a campaign speech filled with political commentary rather than a fact-based legal opinion.”

Brnovich spokeswoman Katie Conner brushed aside the fact that the law, strictly speaking, is not yet in effect.

“At the end of the day, it’s really, when you think about it, offensive what Tucson is trying to do when policymakers have clearly spoken on what the policy is in the state of Arizona, especially with something as permanent as a vaccine,” she said.

The dispute is more than academic.

State law says if the attorney general finds that a local law violates state statute, the state treasurer is required to withhold most of the community’s state revenue sharing dollars, a figure that Rankin estimates to be about $120 million a year.

Romero said the mayor and council are reviewing the findings, with one option being to take the dispute to the Arizona Supreme Court. But in the interim, City Manager Michael Ortega said he is pausing implementation of the policy.

The Tucson ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, required all city employees to get at least their first dose of an approved Covid vaccine by Aug. 24. There are exceptions for medical reasons, accommodations for disabilities, or a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Workers who did not comply faced a five-day suspension without pay. And continued refusal could lead to other penalties like having to pay more for their health insurance.

Conner said this is not acceptable.

“Adherence to the rule of law in Arizona is not optional,” she said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility, including the city of Tucson.”

But all that presumes SB1824 is legal — or will be after Sept. 29.

It is one of the “budget reconciliation” bills enacted by lawmakers in the waning days of the session.

There already is a lawsuit challenging the validity of that law based on constitutional provisions that require all measures to deal with only a single subject, and that any subject must be reflected in the title. But this bill deals not only with a ban on vaccine mandates by state and local governments but also everything from the state’s newborn screening program to a special fund within the Department of Economic Security to provide services for sexual violence victims.

A hearing on the legality of SB1824 is set for Sept. 13. But Josh Kredit, the assistant chief deputy under Brnovich, promised an appeal if Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper concludes the statute is invalid.

“It’s hard to determine how that will impact us,” Kredit said. But he said that, as far as his office is concerned, the Tucson ordinance, as of now, violates both state law and the governor’s executive order.

Brnovich’s arguments, however, are not limited to the effective date of the law.

The report notes that Gov. Doug Ducey interceded on Aug. 16, issuing his own executive order which the governor claims bans the kind of vaccine mandates Tucson enacted until the law takes effect.

But Rankin said Ducey’s executive order is relying on what the governor believes is his authority under state health law. And he said that even Brnovich’s office has acknowledged that the sections of that statute cited by the governor limit only what the state and counties can do, not what legal options are available for cities.

And then there’s the question of whether Ducey still retains his powers to issue edicts under an emergency he declared more than a year and a half ago.

“That’s a great question,” Kredit said. “I’m not sure.”

Brnovich said he is not anti-vaccine.

“I would encourage people to get the vaccine,” he said. But Brnovich declined to say whether he has been inoculated, said these are “personal medical decisions.”