The Big RevealRepublican legislative leaders finally released a $9.9 billion state budget, calling for more spending on education, border security, highways and--surprise, surprise!--big ol' tax cuts. The plan cuts income taxes by 5 percent over the next two years, along with a reduction in property taxes. Some rank-and-file Republicans want bigger tax cuts, while others complain the cuts are too deep. Democrats are griping that because Arizona's income tax is so progressive, the bulk of the break will go to the wealthiest Arizonans.
The proposed cuts came just after Republicans in Congress finished extending tax breaks on capital gains and corporate dividends, with the direct benefits going to--and you'll be shocked by this--the wealthiest Americans.
"The bill provides real, meaningful relief for American taxpayer families and small businesses," U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl said in a statement. "Extending these tax policies is necessary to sustain our growing economy."
Arizona Democratic Party Chairman David Waid complained that the tax breaks came at the same time as Republicans were eliminating tax breaks for tuition payments and teachers.
"If Jon Kyl thinks it's a good idea to make college more expensive for students, instead of less, I wouldn't recommend that he make any commencement addresses this year," Waid press-released. "We think this is wrong."
Bush Notices BorderWith his presidency circling the drain, President George W. Bush told the nation Monday that he had an all-new plan to secure the border.
"I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border," said Bush, who has repeatedly attempted to cut funding for programs that help cover the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants in state prisons.
Bush promised to add an additional 6,000 Border Patrol officers by the end of 2008 and vowed to coordinate with state governors to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops along the border to "assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads and providing training."
Bush also said Congress needed to create a guest-worker program that would allow employers to verify the citizenship of their workers. He said illegal immigrants now in the country should be able to remain in the United States if they've lived here for a number of years--which, he insisted, most certainly does not amount to amnesty.
"There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation," Bush said. "That middle ground recognizes that there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family and an otherwise clean record. I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law."
Bush's speech brought a quick response from Democrats, at least in the Range's e-mailbox. Former TV newscaster Patty Weiss, who filed her nomination petitions for the Congressional District 8 seat earlier this week, complained that "for five years, the president has purported to support immigration reform and yet he has never been willing to use the power of his office to enact such a plan. As a Southern Arizonan, I appreciate that the president has apparently come to the realization that a comprehensive immigration plan is needed now--a plan that includes a guest-worker program and employer sanctions in addition to border security. I am looking forward to seeing the details and whether it will include the resources needed to be implemented."
Weiss' chief rival in the CD8 Democratic primary, former state senator Gabrielle Giffords, said that "it is time for the president to back up his words with actions," urging him to persuade Republicans to pass legislation supported by U.S. Sen. John McCain, U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva.
Meanwhile, Democrat Jim Pederson, who hopes to unseat Kyl in November, said Bush's plan amounted to a "Band-Aid."
Pederson added that the "long-term solution is to significantly increase the number of Border Patrol agents as part of a comprehensive immigration-reform package that includes a guest-worker program and a realistic plan to deal with the 12 million undocumented immigrants already here."
Pederson said he wanted to add 12,000 new Border Patrol agents and create a Border Patrol academy, "like West Point."
Urine TroubleThe Range didn't let those rising gas prices--more than $2.96 a gallon for regular unleaded on average in Tucson last week--keep us from making a trip to Flagstaff to dodge the ever-rising temperatures. While in the mountains, however, we found ourselves paying $3.16 a gallon. Ouch!
While enjoying the mountain air, we came across an Arizona Daily Sun report which revealed that someone vandalized Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson's car last Wednesday while Donaldson was at a candidate forum. Sun reporter Larry Hendricks wrote that Donaldson's car was "littered with toilet paper. And on top of the car was a full-sized commode, complete with urine in the bowl."