The NAIOP Arizona board of directors has unanimously opposed Prop 480, an item on the Nov. 4 general election ballot that asks Maricopa County voters to approve a $1.4 billion general obligation bond over 27 years for the Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS).
If passed, Prop 480 would be the third largest bond issuance in Arizona history, according to the Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA), the group spearheading the effort to defeat the proposition.
The NAIOP board could have supported a narrower bond request focused more on the behavioral health component and replacement of the Level One Trauma Center and Arizona Burn Center, NAIOP-AZ President Tim Lawless said.
However, it is opposed to the bond issuance, which would pit a taxpayer supported institution against a number of private healthcare systems where there is much duplication of services and excess hospital beds that private payers must support within a relatively small geographic radius of about five miles.
“We are especially concerned about duplication and unfair competition with taxpayer money,” Lawless said. “While the proponents claim there are three discrete funding components, the wording of the ballot proposal seems far more open-ended regarding the purposes the monies can be used.
“The timing of the bond issuance is also troubling as there was a massive property tax shift from residents to businesses during the Great Recession and these same businesses are still struggling to recover,” Lawless added.
From fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2014, there was a 30 percent increase in property tax rates for businesses. If the bond passes, a typical small business with assessed valuation of $1 million will be paying $7,800 more over time in property taxes.
“We also believe patience is the watchword as we still are not certain of all the impacts of the Affordable Care Act, which was allegedly created to better meet the needs of the uninsured yet who are cited as the primary reason for the bond,” Lawless said. “Related to this, the state expanded Medicaid insurance to the poor to draw down more federal dollars and there appears to be an equity issue that only Maricopa County residents are being asked to pay for the MIHS services when these same taxpayers already pay $65 million per year.”
The point that proponents make where interest rates are near or at historic lows thereby decreasing overall costs seems valid until it is realized that the total cost of the bond ($935 million is the actual amount) with principal and interest will exceed $1.4 billion over 27 years.
The NAIOP board says it needs the Affordable Care Act provisions to be understood with all of the attendant costs associated with its implementation before Arizona embarks on the bond issuance where a new hospital and multiple clinics financed by taxpayer money are constructed only to compete against private hospital systems in an area that already has excess bed capacity and duplication of services. The costs will be shouldered by the same private payers.
“Our board has also set aside some level of funding for the opposition campaign formed by ATRA,” Lawless said of a $10,000 contribution to be made by NAIOP Arizona to the opposition campaign.