Let the Games Begin!Gov. Janet Napolitano delivered her sixth State of the State address on Monday, Jan. 14, kicking off the start of the legislative session. Undaunted by a budget shortfall that is approaching $1 billion in the current fiscal year, Napolitano called for new initiatives in education, health care, transportation, public safety and economic development.
Napolitano asked lawmakers to freeze tuition costs for students after they enroll at the universities and to offer a free community college education to kids who graduate high school with a B average and stay out of trouble, beginning with the class of 2012. In addition, she also called for raising the dropout age to 18 and suggested new tweaking of the AIMS exam.
She called on lawmakers to adjust the new employer-sanctions law and to ask voters to approve a new tax to fund transportation projects; finally, she repeated her annual suggestion to reform the state trust land system.
"We all have great hopes for Arizona," Napolitano said. "Let us have the courage today to rededicate ourselves to those hopes. Even in the face of challenges, we must make our dreams of today the reality of tomorrow."
Speaker of the House Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, responded with a call to permanently eliminate the state's property taxes, which are scheduled to return in January 2009 after a three-year suspension.
"I will not balance the budget on the backs of hardworking homeowners," Weiers press-released.
Other GOP priorities: reforming Child Protective Services, improving the state's veteran home and helping residents tap solar energy.
The call to eliminate the state property tax triggered an op-ed from Rep. Jorge Luis Garcia (D-Tucson), who estimated that the state property tax amounted to $8.51 per month on his home and $16.18 per month on Weiers' home. Garcia said that the tax would generate $250 million dollars per year, which could be helpful with the current budget shortfalls.
"I believe that my monthly cost of $8.51 is well worth it to continue to build schools and improve education for our children; provide dental care for the elderly and developmentally disabled; provide medications and food to our vulnerable senior citizens; provide health care to 19,235 children; to provide vaccines for uninsured and underinsured children (and) for many other reasons to help yours and my neighbors," Garcia wrote.
Napolitano Backs BarackGov. Janet Napolitano is voting for Barack Obama! Napolitano, who had previously suggested she was going to stay out of the Democratic presidential primary fracas, surprised the pundits with her endorsement of the Illinois senator.
"Sen. Obama's message of hope and change is exactly what we need at a time when cynicism about government and politics is at an all-time high," Napolitano press-released.
Cynical political observers suggested that Obama may have offered Napolitano a high-ranking cabinet post in exchange for her support.
If Napolitano were to resign her post as governor before her terms ends, Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer would become governor for the remainder of her term, resulting in one of the greatest betrayals of Arizona voters in the state's history.
Near MissUA astronomers announced this week that Asteroid 2007 WD5 is not likely to crash into Mars. The space scientists had believed that the asteroid, which was discovered last November, had a 1-in-75 chance of hitting the Red Planet, but further investigation showed that the odds dropped to 1 in 10,000.
NASA's Spaceguard Survey continues to watch the skies to spot oncoming asteroids headed for Earth.
Hoop HumiliationThe Arizona Wildcats suffered their most humiliating defeat in recent memory when they fell to the hated Arizona State Sun Devils, 64-59, in overtime last Wednesday, Jan. 9, in Tempe. It was only the second time ASU had beaten the UA in their last 26 meetings.
The Cats rebounded with an 85-71 win against the Houston Cougars on Saturday, Jan. 12. The game saw the return of Jerryd Bayless, who scored 33 points and had nine assists. Bayless had been sidelined with an injured knee.
The win left the Cats 11-5 on the season and 1-2 in Pac 10 play.