Education advocacy groups on Tuesday filed hundreds of thousands of signatures to block Gov. Doug Ducey’s sweeping income tax cuts, the largest in state history, from going into effect and forcing a public vote on them.
For that to actually happen, at least 118,823 of the 215,787 signatures the Invest in Arizona coalition submitted on one of the measures must be deemed valid by elections officials. If they are, Arizona voters will decide the fate of the tax cuts in November 2022.
[The flat tax] ..."is an affront to the voters of the state, an insult to our teachers, and it’s a direct attack on people that all of us people of faith are instructed to protect: children, the vulnerable, those who live in the margins and have suffered the most in the pandemic,” said Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, a member of the Valley Interfaith Project.
Procter-Murphy highlighted one of the points the Invest in Arizona coalition has made since the launch of its referendum campaigns in July: The planned tax cuts won’t just affect education, but the overall state budget.
“The utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has to stop,”
he said. “We see how this rushed tax code will handcuff our state in coming budget cycles, we see how it shortchanges our most vulnerable families for generations to come. We see how these expanded tax cuts will cripple our state government beyond education, health and human services and public safety will also be impacted affecting everyone. Today we are standing up for those whom our elected officials have refused to defend: the poor, the vulnerable, and our children.”
Behind him, white boxes were stacked, some with a red sticker on it with a message in white letters: “The people of Arizona gave Senate Bill 1828 an F.” Next to him were school-aged children holding white poster boards with different messages on them. Some read, “Governor, your handout to the wealthy is in time-out!” “$1 Billion to the wealthy at the expense of my classroom? Not today Governor!” and “Invest in AZ now.”
[Photo Credit: Laura Gómez, Arizona Mirror]
School Advocates Turn in Petitions to Overturn Arizona's $1 Billion Tax Cut, Arizona Republic [pdf]
Foes of Massive Arizona Tax Cuts File to Block Them, Associated Press [pdf]
Petitions Turned in, Apparently Will Force Public Vote on Arizona Tax Cut, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Tax Cut Likely to Go to Voters, AZ Capitol Times
Members of Arizona's faith community gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Thursday to condemn the proposed 2.5% flat tax, saying it would disproportionately impact marginalized communities and that they would be "among the first" to call for a referendum if it passes.
The Arizona Interfaith Network, a statewide coalition of organizations including the Valley Interfaith Project, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and Yuma County Interfaith, held the news conference at 10 a.m.
The Rev. Martha Seaman, a deacon at Church of the Epiphany-Tempe who also serves as president of the Valley Interfaith Project board, began the conference by calling the flat tax a "dangerous" proposal....
The Rev. Hunter Ruffin, a senior pastor at Church of the Ephiphany-Tempe, said the lost tax revenue would "cripple our state for generations to come" and called the state budget "one of our most basic moral documents" that reflects who and what is prioritized in Arizona.
Ruffin said the "immoral" flat tax would benefit wealthy Arizonans at the cost of the poor and middle class, which he described as antithetical to religious teaching. "You can turn to Leviticus, to Ezekiel, to Zachariah, to Malachi, to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to the whole of the Pauline epistles....
"we're taught to care for the most vulnerable among us first, not simply when we have extra in our pockets and we feel charitable."
If the flat tax passes, Ruffin said the Arizona Interfaith Network would be "among the first" to call for a referendum, a measure in which voters can veto a law by gathering enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.
He said the network would also be launching a series of community and congregational study sessions to further explore the flat tax and its implications.
[Photo credit: (right) Matthew Casey, KJZZ; (left) ABC News]
Oped: First the Pandemic, Now a Flat Tax. Haven't Arizona's Most Vulnerable Suffered Enough?” The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Arizona Faith Leaders Condemn Proposed Flat Tax, Say They Will Call Referendum, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
AIN Clergy Denounce the Flat Tax Proposal, Valley Interfaith Project
In Tucson, Arizona, work at Pima County Interfaith began advocating for pandemic relief as the pandemic hit, seeing it as a natural outgrowth of its grassroots work.
Ana Chavarin, an organizer with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization, said its community leaders quickly advocated for rental assistance for people threatened with eviction. And, after weeks of activism, members were able to convince health care providers to bring vaccines to some of the most vulnerable communities Feb. 6.
She credited local leaders for their work in neighborhoods, parishes and church congregations. She said the effort is rooted in church teaching on solidarity and recognizing the dignity of each person....
Chavarin recalled that when coronavirus testing began in Tucson, the site was established far from low-income communities. For people with a vehicle, the trip would take 40 minutes. However, for poor residents it required riding on multiple buses on a trek that took several hours in each direction.
To prevent such inequities, Chavarin urged collaboration among low-, middle- and upper-income residents to develop solutions to community challenges. While such conversations might currently be pertinent during the pandemic, they could also lead to meetings on environmental issues, jobs and education, she said.
She cited the letter to the Corinthians for inspiration in understanding the importance of building such relationships: "When one part of the body is hurting, then the whole body is hurting."
"We need to understand," Chavarin said, "that we are one body in need of creating those connections and having those conversations to talk about specific goals."
[Photo Credit: Eloisa Lopez, Catholic News Service / Reuters]
To Overcome Economic Disparities, Turn to Papal Encyclicals, Panelists Say, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
Thousands of Arizonans could lose their homes in January after the CDC’s eviction moratorium expires at the end of the year. Rabbi John Linder with the Arizona Interfaith Network, along with leaders from the local Episcopal, Catholic and Presbyterian community, called on Gov. Ducey and the state’s elected leaders to impose an eviction moratorium in Arizona.
"This is not just a public health issue, this is a moral issue," Linder said. "So we gather today as leaders of communities of faith to call on our elected officials to meet the gravity of the moment. If a vaccine can be created in record time, we can work collectively to keep the most vulnerable in their homes."
At the beginning of the year, there were about 7,500 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County, and public, private and faith-based homeless service resources were already strained. Reverend Jennifer Reddall, the Episcopal bishop of Arizona and member of the Valley Interfaith Project, says the religious community is not equipped to handle a six-figure surge of newly homeless individuals. She led the Interfaith network’s plea to Gov. Ducey to impose another eviction moratorium as the pandemic continues to tear through Arizona.
Linder said it's entirely within the governor's power to take proactive action to solve this crisis.
“It’s not as though resources are not available," he said. "Resources are available, it’s a matter of political will now. We’re not going to be passive here. This is a crisis as every story has made clear."
Audio Clips from NPR/KJZZ Story:
With National Spotlight on Maricopa, VIP & AIN Denounce Electoral Provocation, Urge Trust in Process
“The unwarranted provocation, aided and abetted by fringe group extremists, is an affront to the democratic process," said clergy and religious leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network. Prior to the election, they reminded "all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence."
Arizona Election Updates: More Ballot Results Expected Friday Morning, Arizona Republic [jump to 5:15 update] [pdf]
Letter to the Editor by Pima County Interfaith: Count Every Vote, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
VIP/AIN Statement Against Unwarranted Electoral Provocation, Valley Interfaith Project
Voting is now underway at a torrid pace, and soon we will know the much-anticipated results of our pending election. Still, we hear misguided threats and attempts to cast doubt on the election process and how well ballots will be counted.
As faith leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network who lead congregations that claim active members of all political persuasions, we want to remind all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence.
We are impressed with both the safeguards and security measures they have put in place, especially provisions for voting during the pandemic. This includes hiring and training additional poll workers, securing safe locations for voting, and preparing for the early tabulation of mail-in ballots, currently underway.
Cooperation of citizens, candidates, and parties is crucial. We implore everyone, whatever your political leaning, to trust the process. Attempts to harass, intimidate, or otherwise suppress the vote of fellow citizens will not be tolerated. These would be an affront to the rule of law, and we will be among the first to denounce such behaviors.
[Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Arizona Capitol Times]
With 50% of prisoners testing positive for COVID-10 in one prison alone, and after several conversations with the Governor, DOC Director and Director of Health Services, Valley Interfaith Project leaders are calling for rapid testing of prisoners across Arizona.
"Your current testing plan for the state’s prisons, which just commenced, is too drawn out," Valley Interfaith Project leaders said in a letter to Shinn on Wednesday. "The rapid spread of the virus and the still ongoing unevenness of response by your Department will lead to more loss of life without drastic and immediate interventions."
Arizona Prison Stories, Valley Interfaith Project
150 VIP Leaders Call for Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation in Meeting with Maricopa Supervisor
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates joined VIP’s Leaders Assembly on July 22 ...for a public strategy to accelerate COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing. VIP Leaders taught the crucial strategy needed to suppress the coronavirus and engender the trust required to open the economy and schools. With emphasis on Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation (TTSI), the strategy is based on conversations with Danielle Allen, lead author of the Harvard report, Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience (link to the study). VIP Congregations have stepped up in support of this strategy, offering their facilities as trusted sites for testing centers and the commitment to recruit individuals from the community to be trained as contact tracers.
The urgency of this moment was clearly demonstrated with stories: from frontline workers about how COVID-19 has overtaken all aspects of healthcare to a mother’s concern for loved ones in prison, where only minimal protections have been offered as the virus spreads throughout the facility.
150 VIP Leaders Assemble Online with Supervisor Bill Gates to Discuss COVID-19 Strategies, Valley Interfaith Project
After hundreds of VIP clergy and leaders, through a petition with their state Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN), called on Governor Ducey to extend the Stay-at-Home order past April 30, the Governor announced an extension of the Executive Order, with gradual loosening of current restrictions over coming weeks.
Clergy representatives of AIN responded with a statement of cautious approval:
"May 15 could very well be a premature re-opening of the state, but we appreciate that the state will proceed cautiously and in accord with CDC guidelines. We could face a disastrous rebound of the Covid-19 crisis if we are not careful and vigilant. This is no time for false optimism. There is only one path to safety and that is an escalation of testing capacity."
Arizona Interfaith Network Applauds Continuation of State Order, Arizona Interfaith Network [pdf]
Ducey Extends Stay-At-Home Order Through May 15 But Eases Some Restrictions on Businesses, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Hundreds of Arizona religious leaders urged Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his stay-at-home order.
Ducey’s executive order, made over a month ago, is set to expire at midnight on Thursday, unless the governor modifies or extends it.
In a letter organized by the Arizona Interfaith Network, [including Valley Interfaith Project and Pima County Interfaith] religious leaders praised Ducey for issuing the order in the first place. Now the governor must avoid the “false calculus” that pits Arizona’s economy against peoples’ lives, they wrote.
"The economy should serve the common good and promote dignified, safe work, particularly for the most vulnerable,” the letter states. “This a moral decision, not just a business decision. We must do all we can to save lives; life is irreplaceable.”
Ducey faces pressure from Republican leaders in Arizona, including the head of the Arizona GOP, to reopen the economy as soon as possible.
But faith leaders stated that Ducey should rely on clear and convincing science — that means robust testing and contact tracing — to decide when it’s safe to reopen Arizona’s economy.
“The coronavirus will only be contained by broad testing and the application of our best public health measures,” they wrote. “The disease will not cooperate with deadlines imposed by us. It will not respond to political calculations or wishful thinking, and neither should the state of Arizona.”
Religious Leaders Urge Ducey To Extend Stay-At-Home Order, KJZZ Radio [pdf]
Governor Ducey: The Stay-at-Home Order Saves Lives, Arizona Interfaith Network