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The Skinny

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TV NEWS

Sometimes, we just have to wonder if certain folks figure that people are just plain stupid. How else do you explain the latest Cox Communications ad in the Sunday paper?

There was Anne Doris, Southern Arizona vice president of Cox Communications, writing a letter about how the cable company was looking out for us.

"You told us that community access channels are important," Doris wrote. "So we proposed the maximum number allowable under state law."

Um, that wouldn't be the state law that Cox lobbied the Legislature to change last year that reduced the number of public, educational and government channels that a city could ask for?

Oh, wait, Doris is talking about that law. Huh. That makes us wonder if she really does think that PEG channels are all that important--especially if they get in the way of expanded digital home-shopping opportunities for the customers they care so much about.

Cox is back at the Legislature this year, again working to undercut the city's position as they negotiate a new franchise agreement. And that bill is sailing right along, at least as of press time.

That's more than you can say about a lot of legislation at this point. Most of the committees in the House wrapped work on House bills last week, meaning that if a bill hadn't had a hearing yet, it was probably dead--at least until it found a striker to bring it back to life.

A few House committees were still hearing legislation this week, such as the House Government Committee, which was scheduled to celebrate Bash-a-Mexican Day with a collection of border-related measures on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are back to talking about tax cuts. Not satisfied with the 5 percent cut in income taxes that's scheduled for this year (on top of a 5 percent cut in income taxes last year), Republican Rep. Kirk Adams, of Mesa, wants another 5 percent cut in income taxes next year. Adams isn't making an argument that the government should take in less revenue and spend less on programs; he's embracing the "dynamic modeling" of supply-side theory that suggests more tax cuts will create such an economic boom that the state will pull in more money.

Correct us if we're wrong, but we didn't have income-tax cuts in the first few years of the Napolitano administration, and the economy experienced such real and sustained growth that we had an enormous surplus last year. Then we cut income taxes, and economic growth tailed off. So maybe income tax cuts slow economic growth? Or maybe economics are not quite as simple as Rep. Adams wants us to believe.

Whatever economic theories you want to buy into, here's the math: Because we have a sharply progressive tax system, the benefits of the cuts will go the highest-earning households in the state. Frankly, we'd just as soon see the money spent on widening highways, building schools or laying the track for that commuter train between here and Phoenix.

In other tax-legislation news: A bill from Republican Rep. Steve Yarbrough, of Chandler, that would have limited the power of counties to raise secondary property taxes--the ones that pay for libraries and flood-control districts, for example--died in committee last week.

Reporter Erica Meltzer of the morning daily got reaction from county officials, who said they couldn't have cranked the library tax by about 50 percent last year if that law had been in place.

Supervisor Ann Day defended the county's decision to increase library taxes, arguing that the Board of Supervisors lowered the primary property-tax rate to compensate for the library-tax increase.

Really? We were under the impression the county lowered the primary rate to compensate for rising property values.

Whatever the justification, don't be fooled: Most of us are paying more to the county. Which is OK by us; we're tax-and-spend libs. But please don't try to sell us the notion that our taxes aren't going up, because we're not idiots, no matter what Cox's Anne Doris thinks.


NON CENTS

Just how much did City Councilman José Ibarra's "penny for public safety" proposal suck? It sucked so totally that Ibarra couldn't get a second from any of his colleagues to even discuss the idea of asking voters to approve a 1 percent sales tax for cops and firefighters at last week's council meeting. Snap! That's one step short of them holding José down and branding an "L" on his forehead.

By the way, some folks out there are whispering that José might be plotting some kind of political comeback after he leaves the council later this year--like, maybe a run for the state Legislature.


ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIER

Republican Len Munsil, the former head of the Center for Arizona Policy who suffered one of the worst ass-whuppings in the history of the state in his run for governor last year, resurfaced last week, declaring that he was forming a new political action committee, PRO-PAC.

The PRO in PRO-PAC, as Len explained at www.lenmunsil.com, stands for Principled Reaganesque Outcomes, which is way up there among the dumbest acronyms we've heard in our lives.

Munsil blogged that he was beaten by 27 percentage points by Democrat Janet Napolitano in a Republican state "because Arizona's taxpayer-funded election system did not provide us with the financial resources to reach vast numbers of voters with our conservative message and her liberal record."

And, he adds, post-election polling "revealed that our lack of funding meant that, even on Election Day, many Arizona voters had no idea who I was."

Even worse, Len: Many Arizona voters didn't care who you were--and they still don't.

Napolitano got nearly 960,000 votes, which amounted to more votes than any other governor in history. That's what we call a landslide in this biz.

Sure, it's possibly that all those voters--including the Republicans who crossed party lines to support Janet--were tricked. But it's also possible that the majority of Arizonans don't want to live in Len Munsil's world. We know we don't.


EXPECT DELAYS

Didja see that Maricopa County wants to widen Interstate 10 to 24 lanes between Highway 60 and the Interstate 17 split? That's right: a dozen lanes in each direction. Our ADOT sources advise us, though, that the highway will be separated by concrete barriers into separate express and local lanes rather than a mighty river of concrete 12 lanes across.

Just think: We'll have to build something like that for the entire stretch between downtown Tucson and IKEA in another three or four decades.

In the meantime, we've got some bad news and some good news about the drive to Phoenix. The bad news: It'll soon get even less pleasant--maybe by this summer. The good news: When it's done, I-10 will be three lanes between here and Picacho Peak.

Yes, the Arizona Department of Transportation is ready to start spending those extra highway funds that the Arizona Legislature coughed up last year, back when we had all that surplus money.

ADOT has budgeted $37 million on the stretch between Tangerine Road and the Pinal Air Park, which will go out to bid next month. The 18-month project is scheduled to begin this summer, but you know how that goes.

The agency plans to ask for bids for the stretch between Pinal Air Park and Picacho Peak in June, with crews spreading asphalt by next winter. That project, also expected to take 18 months, will cost an estimated $73 million.

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