THE END OF THE WALKUP ERA
Mayor Bob Walkup used his final State of the City speech to announce that he's ready to retire after three terms atop City Hall.
"It has been a great joy to give these addresses and a great privilege to serve as your mayor," Walkup said. "There is no greater satisfaction in life than serving one's community and working for the common good. But now Beth and I need to take care of our families and each other."
Walkup's announcement comes as we're going to press, so we'll have more on the decision at The Range, at daily.tucsonweekly.com.
The only Democrat seeking the mayor's office so far is attorney Jonathan Rothschild, who has been quietly assembling a campaign for more than a year.
On the GOP side, the only announced candidate is Shaun McClusky, who made his political debut with an unsuccessful run for the Ward 5 City Council seat in 2009. But Ron Asta, who served as a Democrat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors back in the 1970s and ran for mayor on the Democratic ticket in 1983, is considering a run as a Republican. Asta now works as a consultant to developers.
In a three-day special session last week, Republican state lawmakers gave Arizona corporations a fat tax cut that will cost the state an estimated $500 million a year once it's fully implemented in 2018.
It passed even though some rank-and-file Republicans griped that they weren't clear on the details, particularly the creation of quasi-private Commerce Authority that would have the control of $25 million in "deal-closing" dollars.
The bill, cooked up behind closed doors by GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Jan Brewer, got mixed reviews. Speaker of the House Kirk Adams called it the most "aggressive reform of our tax policy" in two generations. Senate President Russell Pearce said the package "gives us momentum heading into another difficult task in the days ahead: getting our state's fiscal house in order."
Democrats complained that it didn't make sense to pass a massive tax cut while the state was still grappling with a shortfall of more than a billion dollars in the upcoming fiscal year. And as these new tax cuts are phased in, the state is scheduled to lose a billion dollars annually from the temporary one-cent sales-tax hike that voters approved last year.
"It remains to be seen if this jobs bill will actually create any jobs," says Rep. Matt Heinz, who frets that the tax reforms will force huge cuts in education that will hurt future economic-development efforts.
Democrats found some unlikely support from biz-friendly Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb, who dismissed the package as "grossly irresponsible. ... There is not any proposed or even plausible scenario in which (the state) gets back to an honestly balanced budget at any time in the future. Not in one year, not in three years, not in five years, not in 10 years."
We imagine the tax-cut package offers a preview of how the budget will be rolled out: negotiated behind closed doors and rushed through with little oversight or examination.
The Obama administration played a little political jujitsu on Gov. Jan Brewer and GOP lawmakers.
Brewer and GOP leaders made a big deal about asking the Obama administration for a waiver so they could go forward with plans to kick somewhere in the neighborhood of 280,000 people off AHCCCS rolls.
It was a smart play: If the White House denied the waiver, it would allow Republicans to say they had no choice to cut K-12 education, universities and everything else—and blame it all on Obamacare.
But it appears the Obama administration has been even smarter: Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius found a loophole that allows the state to get out of providing health insurance to most of the population that Brewer wants to dump.
Now Brewer can't blame Obama for making her cut other services—which spares Obama another black eye over his health-care reform plan.
Whether Republicans can go forward with their plan to strip health insurance from a quarter-million people beneath the poverty level remains to be seen. The current eligibility guidelines were put in place by voters, which means lawmakers are supposed to go back to the ballot if they want to make changes.
Brewer and the GOP caucus are counting on a narrow interpretation of the law: They essentially argue that the law calls for the state to use "available funds" to provide the insurance, and they say there aren't funds available. Does that hold up in front of Arizona Supreme Court justices when you've just found enough funds available for a ginormous tax break? Guess we'll find out in court.
There are plenty of reasons not to change the current eligibility requirements, including the likelihood that doing so—according to studies—will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching funds that help support the health-care system, as well as tens of thousands of jobs in the health-care sector. It's also likely to force private insurance companies to raise their rates. (And that's not even considering the impacts on people who find themselves without health insurance.)
SCRATCHED OFF THE LIST
Two candidates who planned on bids for the Tucson City Council appear to be out of the race.
Republican Mike Jenkins, who has previously run for Congress, the Arizona Legislature and the Tucson City Council, sent out a statement over the weekend that he was withdrawing from the race for the Ward 4 seat now held by Democrat Shirley Scott because he had "personal issues."
Meanwhile, we're told that Democrat Marcia Ortega, who was making her political debut with a campaign against Ward 1 Councilwoman Regina Romero, will be dropping out due to residency issues, but she promises that we haven't seen the last of her.
BETTER SCHOOLS THROUGH NUCLEAR WASTE!
Sen. Al Melvin isn't talking to our secular/socialist newspaper. (Remind us again, Al: How much money have you taken from the state for your political campaigns?)
But Melvin told ArizonaGuardian.com that he hasn't yet figured out where he'd put his proposed nuclear-recycling plant that would allow the Arizona Legislature to spend fewer general-fund dollars on schools.
Melvin told reporter Dennis Welch that he's in talks with several out-of-state companies who would like to dispose of their nuclear waste in Arizona. Jobs are No. 1, indeed.
Over at The Range last week, we suggested that Melvin consider using Oracle State Park for the plant, which is in his district. The park closed on his watch, and we figured that at the same time, a few dollars could be diverted from his nuclear-dump education fund to reopen the park to people who enjoy the outdoors.
David Safier at Blog for Arizona reminded us that Atomic Al has already said he'd be happy with a nuclear power plant in his district, which includes Oro Valley and the Catalina foothills.
That's when we realized we'd better not give Al any ideas, because he'd probably love to put his nuke dump right at the foot of "A" Mountain and call it the economic boost that Rio Nuevo always needed.
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