Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Want a tax cut? Some Arizona lawmakers want to give you one but only if you're 65 or older

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- The state may be $400 million in the hole this fiscal year -- and even more for the coming year -- but that's not stopping some lawmakers from pushing a new tax cut.
Legislation heading to the full Senate would give every Arizona taxpayer 65 and older a one-time $250 rebate.
Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, had originally proposed the checks go out to anyone at least 55. But he decided when his SB 1148 went to the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this week that 65 made more sense.
It also cut down on the cost. But even with that, Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, put the price tag at about $390 million.
Kern said he's simply following the precedent set last legislative session.
"It mirrors the family tax rebate we had last year that Gov. Hobbs was so happy about last session,'' he said, referring to the fact that while Hobbs didn't want an across-the-board tax cut like that, she took credit for it being part of the budget.
That measure provided a one-time rebate of $250 for every child in a family younger than 17, up to $750 for a household. The cost of that was $260 million.
Kern said this new break for a new group -- seniors -- is justified.
"A lot of them struggle because of the inflation,'' he said.
One of those who would benefit would be Sen. Lela Alston. She turns 82 in June.
But the Phoenix Democrat said it's not that simple.
"I would love to pass this if we had the money,'' she said. "But we don't.''
All the other Democrats on the panel also voted against the idea. But they were not alone: Republican Ken Bennett of Prescott said he echoed Alston's sentiments about the state's fiscal situation.
All that drew derision from Hoffman, one of the architects of the 2023 family tax rebate. He derided "the ridiculousness of the 'no' votes.''
Hoffman pointed out that the tax rebate was not the only measure approved by the panel. Others ranged from $15 million to increase reimbursement rates for those who provide services for those with disabilities to $500,000 for grants to public schools to build community gardens.
"You've been voting for money to spend all day long,'' he told colleagues. "Yet somehow when it's actually about giving it back to the people, well, now we just can't do that.''
Eligibility would be limited to those who filed a full-year resident tax return for 2022 and had at least $1 of liability in 2020, 2021 or 2022.
Both spouses are eligible if they have reached 65; if only one is that old, there would be only a single check.
Any tax cut that large will have to survive not just the legislative process but would become part of the negotiations between Republican legislative leaders and Hobbs for a spending plan for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
There was no immediate response from the governor to the plan.
But, based on the belief they were burned by Hobbs claiming credit for last year's rebate, Kern's legislation includes language spelling out that any communications from the Department of Revenue about the rebate "may not be sent from the governor's office, be sent on the governor's letterhead or reference the governor's office.''
On X and Threads: @azcapmedia