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‘Difficult’ state legislative session ends; no tax breaks for downtown Phoenix entertainment district

Arizona State Capitol, Phoenix, AZ[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl and Matthew Benson, Arizona Republic, June 29, 2008] — Numbers dominated this year’s legislative session.  As in shrinking revenue projections and growing deficit numbers for the state budget.  As in counting the number of votes needed to pass a budget – which has its own controversial set of numbers.  As in counting the hours that a Democratic-led filibuster dragged on in the Senate, in hopes of derailing a vote on a gay-marriage amendment.  Or the even longer Republican-led filibuster against the budget deal days earlier.

Arizona Republic).The session ended after 166 days of work, even more if you count the week of work done on the budget before the session officially started in January.  The last day unfolded under a sky darkened by smoke from a wildfire, a fitting metaphor for the darkening mood of the Legislature.  The mood had begun to sour earlier in the week with division over the state-budget deal, and that atmosphere continued with angry and passionate debate over the gay-marriage amendment

[House Speaker Jim] Weiers and other lawmakers made a last-minute run to win support for a “stimulus” package of bills that supporters said would generate thousands of construction jobs.  But only two of the proposed five measures passed — both included in the budget.  The provisions include $1 billion in borrowing for university construction, to be financed with the proceeds from an expanded state Lottery.  The other stimulus provision expands existing state tax credits for research and development, with the goal of luring startup companies in the high-tech and biotech industries.

Left by the wayside were proposals to create tax credits to attract solar-manufacturing facilities; to give a tax break for a downtown [Phoenix] entertainment district; and to allow Pima County officials to call an election to allow a tax that would shore up Tucson’s spring-training baseball fortunes.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Jackson St. entertainment district lobbies for state help

[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, June 21, 2008] — Recent long-running legislative sessions have featured months of budget bickering between the GOP-led Legislature and the Democratic governor and at least one big last-minute deal.  This year’s eleventh-hour proposal is the jobs-stimulus package, a plan to boost the state’s economy through tax breaks for developers, help for spring-training baseball in Tucson, and tax credits for solar manufacturing, research and development.

The idea — to energize the state’s sagging economy by generating jobs, primarily in construction — surfaced this week after Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, convened lawmakers and lobbyists…  Here’s a rundown on the four components:

Urban Development.  The impetus for this is a downtown Phoenix entertainment district proposed by developers Dale Jensen and Brad Yonover.  They need the Legislature to waive four construction-related sales taxes — two collected by the state, two by the city — to give them a break on construction costs.  Yanover told lawmakers the plan includes a 380-room Fairmont hotel (a boutique hotel from the Marriott Hotels line), a 2,500-seat House of Blues, high-end restaurants, and other amenities.  But Reagan interrupted his presentation to make it clear that the package would not apply just to downtown Phoenix but also to other districts that meet certain criteria.  The construction-related taxes would be returned to the developers for 10 years.

House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, made a special appearance this week to urge lawmakers to take a risk to launch the project.  “This doesn’t cost the taxpayers one cent,” Weiers said.  “It does have the potential for creating tens of thousands of jobs.”  The argument for such tax-abatement projects is that none would be built without the tax waiver.  And with the waiver, a project could proceed and generate new taxes for the city and state.

The proposal, pitched by lobbyists Mike Williams and Kevin DeMenna, caught at least one Phoenix official by surprise.  “My personal feeling is, if they want to include the city in this, maybe we could have a conversation if we can afford to do this,” said Phoenix City Councilman Claude Mattox.  Others see the still-emerging plan as special-interest legislation.  “The urban-development project just smacks of handouts to developers,” said Michael Crowe, chairman of the leadership council of the local branch of the National Federation of Independent Business.  “It just looks like a money grab…”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.  Related Phoenix Business Journal article here.]

Celebrate Statehood Day in the Capitol Mall area, Feb. 14

Arizona's CapitolThe 96th anniversary of Arizona statehood will be celebrated on Thursday, February 14, at “Museums on the Mall: Celebrating Arizona’s Statehood” at the Arizona State Capitol in downtown Phoenix, and two new exhibits about Arizona history will open.  Chief Justice Ruth McGregor will kick off the Statehood Day program leading the Pledge of Allegiance at 12:30 p.m. in the historic Senate Chamber.  Governor Janet Napolitano has been invited to deliver a statehood proclamation, with presentations to follow by Senate President Tim Bee and Speaker of the House Jim Weiers.  Between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Arizona’s history will be celebrated with museum exhibitors from around the state who will be showing artifacts and providing hands-on activities and demonstrations for children and families on the Senate Lawn.

Former Carnegie Library, Phoenix, AZThe historic Carnegie Library located just east of the State Capitol (1101 W. Washington) will turn 100 years old on Feb. 14.  The Carnegie Library was the first permanent library building in Phoenix.  To commemorate its influence on Phoenix and Arizona, an exhibit about its important history, “The Carnegie: Behind Every Library There Is a Story,” will be unveiled on Statehood Day and is open to the public from 2 to 4 p.m.  Refreshments and will be served. 

Also, the Arizona Capitol Museum is opening its newest exhibit “Up from the Ashes: Phoenix Goes to Mars” immediately preceding the Statehood Day Ceremony at Noon.   This exhibit highlights The University of Arizona’s Phoenix Mars Mission, from project development, launch, touchdown, and the resulting research.

All the day’s activities are free and open to the public.  Parking is available in lots east and west of the Capitol and at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum.