‘Difficult’ state legislative session ends; no tax breaks for downtown Phoenix entertainment district
[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.
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.]
[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl, “Building the Valley’s own K Street,” Arizona Republic, June 22, 2008] — Washington, D.C., has K Street, known for its high rises, proximity to the Capitol and its signature residents: lobbyists. In Phoenix, the K Street equivalent is a stretch of Roosevelt Street on either side of Central Avenue. It’s home to historic brick buildings, old store fronts adapted to modern uses and a growing cadre of lobbyists. These practitioners of persuasion all cite similar reasons for setting up shop on the north end of downtown. It’s close to government offices. It’s near key transportation services. And it’s cool.
“It’s a beautiful neighborhood,” said Doug Cole, a partner in HighGround, one of the earliest lobbying and public-affairs firms to venture into the Roosevelt Historic District. HighGround has been in the area for 10 years, and eight years ago moved into a World War I-era Arts and Crafts house with a deep front porch, lots of wood detail, and loads of character. Oh, and a swimming pool. “We’re the only ones with a swimming pool,” boasts Cole, who keeps a pair of swim trunks in the office.
Riester, an advertising and consulting firm, blazed an early trail 12 years ago, moving into a newer building at Third Ave. and McKinley St. Now, the firm is preparing to open a second office across the street to handle its expanding staff. “All these other firms are in the area, and we want to be bigger than them,” joked Joe Yuhas, the firm’s executive director of public affairs.
Bullish on downtown, Yuhas sees the proliferation of smaller professional offices, restaurants, and shops as votes of confidence in the city’s core. The historic nature of the area adds to its allure. Yuhas delights in walking down McKinley Street and seeing a WPA stamp in a sidewalk that was poured in the 1930s. The historic houses adapted by many new arrivals into office space are another draw. “They have fireplaces, hardwood floors and basements,” said John Kaites, who bought a pair of old houses on McDowell Road, a few blocks north of Roosevelt. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[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.]