As Arizona's political leaders try to cope with shrinking tax revenues there will be inevitable pleas from special interest groups to increase taxes on the state's residents rather than cut spending.
Some may even argue that Arizonans can afford to pay more in taxes, an idea that would seem to be supported by a recent study released by Arizona State University showing that Arizona's tax burden has fallen since 1972.
According to the study, our state had the 20th highest tax burden in the nation in 1972 but by the year 2000 Arizona was down to 37th place. But as with all statistics, it is how you look at the numbers.
"The per capita numbers published in the ASU study underestimate the tax burden on working Arizonans," according to Stephen Slivinski of the Goldwater Institute policy study group. The reason is that the numbers include everyone in the state, even the many who do not pay taxes, such as children.
Slivinski, a tax and budget expert, said a more meaningful measure would be to determine what portion of state personal income goes to taxes.
Using that standard, Slivinski calculated that Arizona really ranked 28th highest in tax burden for the nation in 2000 and would have been 15th highest in 1972. That's higher that other states in the region like Colorado (43rd) and Nevada (41st).
The story in regard to the business tax burden is even more grim. Although California has a reputation for being a heavy taxer of businesses, the Utah State Tax Commission recently reported that Arizona was even higher when corporate income taxes and property taxes were combined.
That finding has significant consequences for our state.
"States with comparatively lower tax burdens attract business faster, spur job creation and income creation, and have better overall economic health than states with comparatively higher tax burdens," noted Slivinski.
Far from being under-taxed, Arizona individuals and business are carrying a much higher burden than necessary.