BUSTING OUT THE BUDGET
We figured that the Arizona Legislature was crafting a budget behind closed doors rather than holding appropriation-committee hearings where the public could hear about the impacts of the many proposed cuts.
And after watching how they ran a massive corporate tax cut through the process in just three days earlier in the session, we figured that they'd try to rush the budget through as fast as they could.
But we never imagined that Senate President Russell Pearce would try to ram it through in just one day.
Pearce told the press earlier this week that he hoped to introduce and pass a budget on Wednesday, March 16. And don't you start asking a bunch of questions about what's in it, either.
(OK, here's what we hear is in it, for starters: More than a billion dollars in cuts, including hundreds of millions of dollars taken from K-12, hundreds of millions from health-care programs, hundreds of millions from welfare programs and hundreds of millions from the universities.)
If Pearce can accomplish his one-day push—which strikes us as both ridiculous and unlikely—the House of Representatives is still not likely to go for the Senate plan.
That's because the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association has come up with a tax on itself that would help the state keep hundreds of thousands of low-income Arizonans on the AHCCCS health-insurance rolls—and that, in turn, would bring in federal matching funds to help support the hospitals.
"This is an industry-driven solution and one that I think the Legislature should seriously embrace," says Rep. Matt Heinz, a Democrat from Tucson and an emergency-room doctor.
Because the proposal involves a tax increase, it's not going to be easy to get it through the GOP-controlled Legislature, even if it does preserve jobs, keep hospitals afloat and support the overall health-care system in the state.
We're tight on space this week, but we did want to remind you to follow the legislative action on the Blogislature, our daily dose of Capitol chatter on The Range, at daily.tucsonweekly.com.
This week, we're following the passage of a flat-income tax that would make the middle class pay more and the rich pay less; the push to loosen gun restrictions; efforts to restrict city spending and increase bureaucracy; the progress of immigration bills; the ongoing collapse of Republican Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard's political career; and lots more!
The Pima County Democratic Party is picking favorites in this year's Tucson City Council races—and it's causing drama in the Ward 1 Democratic primary, where Councilwoman Regina Romero wants a second term.
Standing in her way is Democrat Joe Flores, a pharmacy and check-cashing-business owner who plans to formally launch his campaign in a few weeks.
Last week, the Pima County Democratic Party Executive Committee—a group of precinct leaders who oversee the party's machinery—voted 30-0 to endorse all of the incumbents who want four more years on the council: Romero, along with Ward 4 Councilwoman Shirley Scott and Ward 2 Councilman Paul Cunningham.
Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, says party leaders want to have a strong campaign for the slate of incumbents to counter an increasingly aggressive Republican Party. Despite their voter-registration advantage in Tucson, Democrats lost an incumbent council member for the first time in three decades in 2009, when Republican Steve Kozachik knocked off Nina Trasoff, and nearly lost Karin Uhlich's Ward 3 seat.
"We view this as a different time, (considering the) extremely aggressive, somewhat dishonest ads that were taken out in 2009 against our incumbents," Rogers says. "We've just realized that we have to focus on the general election immediately, especially given that we have three incumbent candidates, and defend them and take back the mayor's spot."
The endorsement of the incumbents naturally burned the biscuits of Team Flores. Campaign chairman Luis Gonzales fired off a letter to Rogers, urging that the party leaders rescind the endorsement in the westside ward.
"It's the first time the party has done anything like this, and we're perplexed as to why ... they decide they have to endorse somebody in a contested primary," Gonzales says. "My concern about this type of activity is that we lose more people from the party."
Rogers says that the party's executive committee is "not impressed" with Flores' candidacy.
In his written response to Gonzales, Rogers expressed a hint of disappointment that Flores hasn't done more for the party over the last half-century, and that he ran a payday-loan business until they were outlawed last year.
"I still haven't met anyone who can tell me anything Mr. Flores has done for Democrats in this city in his 66 years here," Rogers wrote. "The only things I know about him are that he run (sic) a payday loan establishment on the west side and previously continued with his father's business. I'm sure he is a wonderful man and I look forward to meeting him."
Gonzales, who noted that Flores would be available for an interview after he kicks off the campaign in a few weeks, said that Flores' lack of political experience shouldn't be held against him by the party.
"Just because a person hasn't been intimately involved in the party structure or party activities over the years doesn't make him any less of a Democrat than anyone else," Gonzales says.
He added that the ownership of a payday-loan operation shouldn't have any bearing on the party's endorsement.
"It's a bogus argument to use for endorsing or not endorsing a candidate," Gonzales says.
Gonzales told The Skinny that Flores would defend his business dealings in the payday-loan industry once the campaign is underway.
"I am sure that Mr. Flores will be able to defend whatever it is that the other candidates want to bring up," he said. "That's the only thing I can say about that."
The Ward 1 primary is shaping up as a proxy war between proponents and enemies of Congressman Raúl Grijalva, whose aide, Ruben Reyes, is married to Romero. Gonzales has tangled with Grijalva in the past, including a run against him for the congressional seat in 2002.
Flores' first campaign flier brings up Grijalva's call for a boycott last year following the passage of SB 1070.
Rogers chastised Gonzales for the reference to the boycott.
"It certainly doesn't improve your candidate's position within the Democratic Party when his first campaign piece attacks one of the stalwarts of our Democratic Party," Rogers wrote. "The piece goes on to 'subtly' attack other Democrats—especially our City Council members."
BEATING THE RAP
Republican mayoral candidate Shaun McClusky beat the city of Tucson last week over charges that he failed to properly note his largest contributors on a TV ad opposing the city's proposed sales-tax hike last year.
McClusky said he was delighted that an administrative judge agreed that he hadn't broken any campaign laws.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic," McClusky says. "As I stated earlier, we didn't do anything wrong from the get-go."
City officials wanted more than $18,000 in fines from McClusky.
In other mayoral news: Commercial real-estate broker and former major league pitcher Pat Darcy says he's still considering a mayoral campaign as an independent.
There are a lot of people asking me about it," says Darcy, who ran unsuccessfully in the 1999 mayoral primary. "So I'm seriously thinking about it. I've always been a believer in nonpartisan elections."
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