Nancy Pelosi skips Tucson during Arizona tax “crumbs” tour

PHOENIX — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was in Phoenix last week to make the Democratic Party’s case against tax reform — but skipped the Tucson part of the tour.

Pelosi traveled to Phoenix Tuesday with the aim of convincing Arizonans that they will suffer “devastating effects” from the tax reform package signed into law by President Donald Trump, according to the Arizona Republic. She participated in a Facebook Live discussion moderated by the newspaper and visited the left-leaning Arizona Center for Economic Progress during her trip.

The Associated Press originally reported that Pelosi would visit Tucson two days later, but KVOA learned soon after that she would not be in attendance.

She was flanked at Tuesday’s event by U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva. The house minority leader hand-picked Grijalva — who represents a portion of southern Arizona and is considered one of the most liberal members of the state’s congressional delegation — to serve on the conference committee tasked with combining the U.S. House and U.S. Senate versions of the tax reform legislation in December 2017. Grijalva has called the legislation “a national disgrace.”

Pelosi received widespread criticism in January 2018 for dismissing $1,000 bonuses — which many workers are receiving as a result of tax reform’s passage — as “crumbs.” The Democratic former speaker said of the legislation, “This is the end of the world … This is Armageddon” and referred to it as “the worst bill in the history of the United States Congress.”

State Senator Steve Farley of Tucson opposes the tax relief legislation and has claimed that it “helps the rich while slashing benefits for teachers spending own [money] on supplies.”

Farley did not attend the forum.

The tax reform package was the focus of Tuesday’s forum, which occasionally delved into other topics like ongoing negotiations over the DREAM Act. A one point, during a question about income equality, a member of the audience shouted, “How much are you worth, Nancy?”

“We’re not talking about that,” Pelosi responded, as the two struggled to talk over each other. “I’m a mother of five. I can speak louder than anybody.” (The house minority leader has a minimum net worth of $29.35 million and minimum assets of $42.81 million, according to Roll Call.)

“Workers don’t want one-time bonuses,” Grijalva said in Tucson Wednesday.

Last Monday, the New York Times released a new poll concluding that the tax relief package has significantly increased in popularity, including among Democrats, since going into effect. The chief research officer at SurveyMonkey, which conducted the poll for the newspaper, said that the improved public opinion about the legislation is “dramatically different” than it was only one month earlier.

The improvement is likely the result of taxpayers seeing their paychecks grow.

Thousands of workers in Arizona were eligible for these bonuses and pay increases. In addition, consumers across the state may soon see a reduction in their electricity bills.

Arizona Public Service (APS) currently is seeking a $119 million rate decrease from the Arizona Corporation Commission in order to pass along these benefits to families. Tucson Electric Power also is considering ways to bring relief to its customers in southern Arizona.

A version of this article appears at Arizona Democrats Exposed.


Poll: Steve Farley out-of-touch with voters on tax reform

PHOENIX — State Senator Steve Farley opposed the tax reform package signed into law by President Donald Trump, but, according to a new poll conducted for the New York Times, that’s not in line with how the American people see it.

The poll, released on Monday, was conducted by SurveyMonkey for the New York Times. It found that the 2017 tax reform legislation increased in popularity after it went into effect, with 51 percent of Americans now supportive compared to only 46 percent last month.

Support for the legislation “has grown even among Democrats,” the newspaper reported. SurveyMonkey’s chief research officer added, “Public opinion is moving in the direction of this bill . . . Considering where it was, it is dramatically different.”

In November 2017, Farley tweeted that the legislation “helps the rich while slashing benefits for teachers spending own [money] on supplies.”

Actress Jenna Fischer made a similar claim the following month, alleging that the tax deduction for teachers who purchase school supplies for their own classrooms (the ‘slashed benefit’ that Farley cited) was not included in the bill. It was, in fact, included — and Fischer deleted the erroneous claim soon after, issuing a lengthy apology “because, I believe accuracy is important,” she tweeted.

Farley remained opposed the tax reform package in December.

“Our efforts to stop the rise of economic inequality in our state got a lot tougher with the passage of the federal tax bill through the US Senate last week, which will help the rich get dramatically richer at the expense of the rest of us,” he wrote. “Thanks to the federal tax bill, what we have already seen in Arizona is what we will face across the nation.”

However, families across the country already have begun to benefit from the legislation in the form of tax relief and pay increases. The president of an aerospace company based in Tucson near Farley’s legislative district confirmed in an interview with the National Association of Manufacturers that the tax reform package will empower the business “to invest in more equipment and hire more people.”

Arizona Public Service (APS) announced in January that the utility will be passing along the benefits of tax reform to its customers across the state by seeking a $119 million rate decrease. Arizona Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson is supporting such efforts. Tucson Electric Power also announced in February that the southern Arizona utility is looking at ways to do the same.

A version of this article appears at Arizona Democrats Exposed.


Steve Farley struggles to balance on Clinton-Sanders tightrope

PHOENIX — More than six months after State Senator Steve Farley entered the race for Arizona governor, it has become clear that the Democratic candidates recognize the fine line they will have to walk during the primary in order to avoid alienating different factions of their party.

The state senator, who represents the ninth legislative district in southern Arizona, announced in June 2017 that he would be running against Governor Doug Ducey in 2018. In doing so, Farley became the third candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

Noah Dyer, a marketing executive, and David Garcia, an associate professor at Arizona State University, joined the race earlier that year. Dyer, considered a long-shot candidate by many observers, decided to re-register as an independent in July, blaming “senior state level partisans” for not embracing his candidacy. Garcia, meanwhile, who lost his bid for state superintendent of public instruction in 2014 despite outspending his general-election opponent seven-to-one, is now seen as Farley’s only real competition for the nomination.

Both Democratic candidates initially welcomed their primary challengers.

“I’m not sure of anybody else, but I think having others in the race is healthy,” Garcia told Arizona PBS in April. Farley agreed, telling Arizona Public Media one week later, “I think a primary is good for everybody.”

But the public niceties had already begun to devolve into personal attacks and hesitation about where they stood on issues of importance to the Democratic Party’s base.

Upon Garcia’s announcement that he would be entering the race, Farley dismissed his opponent as a political novice and opportunist who was jumping into the election from the all-talk-no-action world of academia. The state senator contrasted himself as someone who has fought for the Democratic Party for years, “not somebody who’s writing papers at a university,” reported Capitol Media Services.

The jab at Garcia’s lack of experience fighting for the Democratic Party echoed an attack line often used by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s allies against her own presidential primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) David Brock, founder of Correct The Record, for example, was known for dismissing Sanders as someone who had only “been a Democrat for five seconds.”

Farley’s legislative experience, however, could prove to be an issue of its own, as reporter Howard Fischer noted during an “Arizona Horizon” roundtable in November 2014.

“He’s a quote-unquote ‘fresh young face,’ but he sometimes doesn’t even get along with members of his own caucus, so that creates some interesting problems there,” Fischer said.

The Clinton-Sanders divide in Arizona’s gubernatorial race also points to a deeper ideological debate within the Democratic Party, with each candidate hesitant to take public policy positions that might alienate either wing of the party.

The Arizona Republic reported in August that Farley and Garcia “drew audible groans of frustration” from members of the audience at a Democratic primary debate for refusing to say whether they supported Clinton or Sanders in 2016. The Green Valley News similarly observed after another primary forum, “Neither candidate directly answered a question about whether they support recreational marijuana use.”

Election season is certain to heat up with the legislative session in full swing, offering an important advantage to Farley, who is now able to use his position as an elected official to speak his mind on the Senate floor in a way that Garcia cannot. The state senator’s campaign announced in January that his committee had raised $513,000 for his gubernatorial run.

Garcia’s campaign responded that his candidacy “is about issues, not dollars,” according to the Associated Press, hinting that the ASU professor was lowering observers’ expectations ahead of his own filings. That hint turned out to be true, with Garcia announcing soon after that his campaign raised less than $300,000 and had already spent more than two-thirds.