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U.S. SUPREME COURT TO CLEAN ELECTIONS: DROP DEAD

Arizona's Clean Elections program, which provides campaign dollars to candidates for state office, suffered another blow this week when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its matching-funds program is unconstitutional.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the narrow 5-4 majority, said the matching funds program "burdens political speech" because it provides additional money to Clean Elections candidates who are facing privately funded candidates who exceed fundraising limits.

The ruling doesn't bring an end to the program, but it does seriously hamstring candidates who decide to use it. Qualifying candidates will still be able to get an initial lump sum of money, which varies depending on the office they are seeking. But if their opponents (or independent committees opposing them) spend more than that, the Clean Elections candidates will no longer be eligible for matching funds to level the playing field.

On a practical level, this decision means that any candidate who can raise funds privately would be smarter to go that route.

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce was among those cheering the decision, calling it a "victory for Arizona and a victory for free speech."

"It made no sense that as privately funded candidates raised money for their campaigns, it triggered taxpayer subsidies for the opposing candidates," Pearce said in a statement. "This was an experiment that failed, and now it has been ruled unconstitutional by the highest court in the land. Good riddance."

As much as Pearce says he dislikes matching funds, he appeared to have little trouble accepting them when he was running in a GOP primary in 2008. In that race, Pearce received $19,382 in initial public funding, and an additional $38,764 in matching funds from Clean Elections. In total, he received more than $71,000 from Clean Elections in 2008, according to campaign-finance reports filed with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.


ARIZONA SUPREME COURT TO LOW-INCOME ARIZONANS: DROP DEAD

The Arizona Supreme Court declined to take action last week on a lawsuit to stop Gov. Jan Brewer from moving forward with plans to block some low-income Arizonans from receiving health insurance.

Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit to stop the Brewer administration from changing AHCCCS-eligibility levels that were set by voters in 2000.

Under the law passed as Proposition 204 that year, anyone who earns up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level is eligible for state-subsidized health insurance.

But in the fiscal year that starts Friday, July 1, Brewer wants to freeze enrollment so that no new adults without minor children will be eligible for the program. Adults with children who earn more than 75 percent of the federal poverty level would also be cut off.

Hogan argued that the Brewer administration couldn't change a program mandated by voters. He had asked the Arizona Supreme Court to issue an injunction in the case blocking Brewer's changes.

Last Friday, June 24, the court decided it would not take on the case and instead said that Hogan should start at the Superior Court level.

Hogan filed a new suit in Maricopa County on Monday.


MONEY TROUBLES

Tensions in Washington, D.C., are growing over an early August deadline to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. Last week, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl was the last Republican to walk out of debt-reduction talks with Democrats, shortly after issuing a statement complaining that Democrats "are insisting on job-killing tax hikes and new spending."

If you want to dive into the debt crisis yourself, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' office is hosting a town hall on the topic this Thursday, June 30.

Among the experts: David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general who has long been sounding an alarm about the deficit.

Walker says that Kyl's decision to walk away from the talks was "disappointing and inappropriate," but he's more concerned that the House of Representatives is now out on recess, "which is rather hard to imagine when you have something as serious as this to be addressed."

Walker argues for deep cuts in spending, but expects that some kind of tax increase is inevitable.

"When I look at how we're going to put our finances in order over time, I think it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be able to deal with our structural deficit in a way that makes economic sense and is socially equitable, culturally acceptable and politically feasible without having some level of revenues above historical levels," Walker says.

He'd like to see tax reform that strips out the many deductions while lowering overall tax rates, like a Democratic Congress did while working with President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

He calls GOP arguments that the U.S. can go beyond the August deadline to raise the debt limit "irresponsible."

"Nobody knows how the markets will react to that," Walker says. "And why would we ever want to take the risk? Because the simple fact is, if interest rates go up, that's only going to compound our problem."

The deficit-reduction town hall, featuring speakers from the Concord Coalition, is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the UA Student Union. For more information or to RSVP, call 881-3588.


ELECTION 2012: MUSICAL CHAIRS

This year's race for mayor of Tucson is pretty much over, so now we can start focusing on 2012! Every member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors will be up for re-election—and rumors are already circulating.

Throw in redistricting of the boundary lines of all five districts, and as one politician told The Skinny, we should prep ourselves for some fireworks.

A five-member board, appointed by the supervisors, will determine line changes, with the intention of dividing the populations equally.

While The Skinny has heard rumors that Republican Ann Day may not run for re-election, aide Valerie Samoy-Alvarado said Day won't make an announcement regarding her plans until August.

District 26 Republican State Rep. Vic Williams is rumored to be interested in Day's District 1 seat, but he said it's too soon for anyone to confirm or file election papers.

"I'm not trying to be evasive," Williams said. "Once again, I will take a look at all the possibilities."

We hear that some GOP strategists are trying to talk Williams into challenging Democrat Sharon Bronson in District 3 so the GOP would have a chance to knock out a Democrat and take control of the Board of Supervisors.

Or Williams might decide to run for a state Senate seat, depending on how District 26 is split by redistricting.

"Those who are filing for these campaigns are being premature," Williams said. "There are a lot of people interested in different offices, but until we know what the districts look like, it's too early."

One of those early filers is Adam Kwasman, who managed Republican Jesse Kelly's unsuccessful campaign against Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords last year. Kwasman formally announced his campaign for an LD26 House seat last week.


SET YOUR TIVO

Skinny scribe Jim Nintzel will talk state politics on KUAT Channel 6's Arizona Week at 8:30 p.m., Friday, July 1. The program repeats at 10:30 a.m., Sunday.

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