KYL LOSES FIRE IN BELLY
U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl set off a seismic wave in the political landscape with last week's announcement that he wouldn't seek another term.
Kyl didn't have much to fear about losing—a poll last month showed that he remained popular with both the GOP base and the public at large—but he nonetheless decided that the time had come to exit the political stage.
That's going to set off a stampede of Republicans who want his seat. Congressman Jeff Flake has already announced that he'll be running, which came as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. Flake, whose crusade against earmarks gives him a solid conservative reputation on spending issues, nonetheless has some conservatives cranky because he's supported comprehensive immigration reform, better relations with Cuba and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Former Congressman John Shadegg has ruled out a run, but there are plenty of other names in the mix: Congressman Trent Franks, who has better social-conservative bona fides than Flake; former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods, who could also run as an independent; J.D. Hayworth, the former congressman who unsuccessfully tried to harness the Tea Party to knock off Sen. John McCain last year; and former Gov. J. Fife Symington III, who just seems to want a little publicity.
And we can't rule out a dark horse self-funder if one comes along.
With Flake already announcing and Franks considering a run, we'll see more congressional seats in play, especially because Arizona is due to get a ninth seat next year. We're hearing that both House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President Russell Pearce are considering congressional runs, which should lead to some fun dynamics as the legislative session continues.
The best hope Democrats have of winning the Senate seat lies in the possibility that Republicans could nominate someone so far to the right that independents can't support the GOP candidate—sorta like GOP voters did with Sharron Angle in Nevada.
Democrats—who have a weak bench to begin with—are finding themselves in a holding pattern as they wait to see if Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will be healthy enough to consider a run. (And may we just add that we're thrilled by the latest reports indicating that Gabby is making big strides in her recovery?)
It seems like an incredible long shot that anyone who suffered that kind of injury could possibly make a run for the U.S. Senate so soon—but then again, it was an incredible long shot that Giffords survived the assassination attempt in the first place.
FAST TRACK TO FISCAL RUIN
GOP lawmakers on Monday, Feb. 14, dropped a tax-cut plan that they hoped to get through the Legislature by Wednesday, Feb. 16.
What's the rush? Well, maybe they just didn't want a lot of testimony complaining that the legislation will cost the state $38 million next year—growing to $538 million when fully implemented in 2018, according to a Joint Legislative Budget Committee analysis.
Defenders of the package claim it will spur so much economic activity that the new tax revenue will more than make up for the reductions in taxes—which is more of an article of faith than actual economic analysis.
The broad outline: The package includes a cut in the corporate tax rate from just less than 7 percent to just less than 5 percent. It eliminates some taxes for multistate corporations. It cuts business property taxes, which may mean an increase for homeowners unless that state provides a backfill—and the state doesn't really have the money to do that without cutting elsewhere. It reduces the property tax on equipment that businesses own. And it includes a variety of incentives and credits, along with a closing fund that can be doled out at the discretion of the new Arizona Commerce Authority.
It's all set to be phased in over the next four years.
When we talked to Sen. Frank Antenori a few days before the bill was officially released, he said he was happy with the bill.
"It's a pretty good jobs bill," Antenori said. "Is it everything I wanted? No. Is it everything everybody in the Legislature wanted? No. Is it everything the governor wanted? No. But it gets the ball rolling in the right direction."
But state Rep. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat, said it was ridiculous to drop a 214-page bill on lawmakers the night before it was supposed to be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Farley was still analyzing the bill when he spoke to The Skinny on Monday, but he said it didn't make sense for the lawmakers to be committing future legislators to hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts at the same time that lawmakers are already slashing the budget for health care, the universities and everything else—especially since the cuts will be kicking in at the same time that the recently approved temporary state sales-tax increase expires, talking away close to a billion dollars a year.
Farley questioned why the bill was being rushed through a special session.
"If there's an emergency special session, it should focus on solving our budget crisis, not making it worse," Farley said. "I don't understand how tax cuts four years in the future are going to create jobs now."
But Vic Williams, a Republican who represents the Catalina foothills and Oro Valley, said that the cuts send a message to businesses.
"Corporations from the bio-life-science people to construction companies tell us they want certainty," Williams said. "They don't care if it's three years down the road. They want something so they can plan for the long-term."
Farley agreed that businesses have a need for certainty about government services: "They'd also like to know that we're going to have roads and schools."
Farley suspects that some GOP lawmakers would be happy to see more budget shortfalls in the future.
"If they blow another hole in the budget, it means they get to cut more things," he said.
Rep. Matt Heinz of Tucson, who said there are elements of the bill he could support (such as a reduction in business personal property taxes), criticized the price tag of the entire package.
"I support an effort to stimulate job generation, but not at the expense of education," Heinz said. "We have to show business that we have an education system that produces skilled workers."
SMALLER GOVERNMENT THROUGH CUMBERSOME PAPERWORK
GOP leaders have embraced a plan that requires all homeowners to send a form to the county assessor every year—or face a big property-tax hike.
Rep. Debbie Lesko's HB 2708 states that every homeowner has to be sent an notification informing them that they have to prove that their residential property is their primary residence—which means your driver's license, car registration and voting registration need to be linked to that property. If you don't send that form back, you face a tax hike of $600.
If you miss the mailing deadline, you're stuck in an appeals process with the county Board of Supervisors.
So this is the path to smaller government: A new form that the government has to send out every year, and that you have to fill out. We predict that if this passes, a lot of folks are not going to understand the process and find themselves socked with a tax hike.
Meanwhile, county workers are stuck with the new hassle of mailing out the forms and filing the returns.
Nice work, small-government conservatives!
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