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Guest opinion

Prezelski: Why is Clodfelter giving platform for Phx political hack to discuss TUSD?

In the last few days, state Rep. Todd Clodfelter announced a “desegregation town hall.” While having an open public forum to discuss this issue is something this community needs, it is pretty clear that this is not what the event is going to be about.

According to the Facebook page for the event, the forum is hosted by “Clodfelter for Arizona,”— in other words, his re-election campaign. It seems clear that this is a political event intended to promote Clodfelter’s candidacy.

Even more concerning is that the discussion will be led by a representative from an organization called the Arizona Tax Research Association, better known as ATRA. While the name makes it sounds like an academic institute or a think-tank, they are actually a lobbying organization with an outsized influence at the capitol. During their seven decade history, they have been the major driving force of fiscal policy in Arizona, with the Legislature often deferring to them without question on issues related to the budget, taxation, and local control.

The name “Arizona” is also a misnomer. They would be better called “Phoenix Metro Tax Research Association,” as their membership and board consists almost entirely of residents of Maricopa County. The late former County Assessor Rick Lyons referred to ATRA as “the usual suspects,” as the group consistently speaks for the interests of large, corporate landowners, primarily utilities. The result is that their primary agenda is lowering the property tax burden for a handful of corporations.

The policies that ATRA has successfully advocated have not only shorted our schools, but have forced local governments to increasingly rely on regressive sales taxes to fund local services. ATRA has called for shifting the burden of property taxes from corporations to residential homebuilders. The legislature’s recent move to single out TUSD residents for a tax increase to pay for cuts to corporate taxes is a result of ATRA’s lobbying.

It is worth asking Rep. Clodfelter why he would give a platform to a political hack from Phoenix whose organization has consistently worked against the interests of Pima County’s students and taxpayers.

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