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Hey, Big Spender!

Gov. Janet Napolitano busted out her budget plan for next year--and it takes state spending past the $10 billion mark for the first time. Key points: expanding voluntary all-day kindergarten to all school districts; raises for state employees; additional dollars for border law enforcement; new facilities and benefits for military veterans; support for rural doctors; tax breaks for small companies that offer health insurance to their employees; a cut in car-registration fees; and a sales-tax holiday at back-to-school time.

In a letter to lawmakers, Napolitano said the state had a "precious opportunity to pay off some of the fiscal bridges, to invest in education, to care for Arizona's children and to make larger deposits to state government's Budget Stabilization Fund."

House Majority Leader Steve Tully, R-Phoenix, said the budget proposal couldn't be described as "fiscally prudent."

Tully added: "But we'll work through it, and by the end of the day, it's only a proposal, and I'm certain she understood when she did it that it wasn't going to get passed as she suggested, so why not shoot for the moon?"

Tully said Napolitano's tax-cut proposals had little chance with the GOP caucus, which was looking to trim income and property taxes.

Assistant Minority Leader Linda Lopez, a Tucson Democrat, expressed her skepticism with Napolitano's proposed sales-tax holiday.

"I have to think--knowing the folks in my school district, who are for the most part very low-income people--that having three days when they can buy these kinds of things may not be beneficial to them. They may not have the money then."

Elsewhere at the Capitol, state lawmakers moved closer to a showdown with U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins earlier this week after Napolitano vetoed legislation designed to satisfy a court order that the state better educate English-language learners. In a ruling last month, Collins said the state would face fines of a half-million dollars a day if a plan wasn't passed by this week.

The GOP proposal would have spent an additional $14 million this year educating English-language learners and included provisions creating a new corporate tuition-tax-credit program, which remains a point of contention between the governor and the GOP. Hey, why not toss in a ban on abortion while you're at it, gang?


Road to Perdition

Sen. John McCain continued to keep a high profile with a visit to Fox News Sunday, where he said the United States had to do more to wean itself from dependence on foreign oil and move toward using more nuclear power (though we're not sure that harnessing atomic power in our autos is likely to work out so well).

"We better understand the vulnerabilities that our economy and our very lives have ... when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela," McCain said.

Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel told The Associated Press that McCain "can go to hell."


Ejected!

UA basketball coach Lute Olson finally had enough of senior Chris Rodgers' attitude. In a statement released last week, Olson told the media: "After long and serious deliberation, the men's basketball staff has dismissed Chris Rodgers, effective immediately, from the team. It should be noted that Chris has earned his college degree in 3 1/2 years, and we wish him much success in the future."

The Rodgers-less Cats rebounded last week with a 90-81 overtime win against the mighty Stanford Cardinal and a non-offensive 60-55 victory over Cal.


Border Bash

Arizona's opportunistic Republican national committeeman, Randy Pullen, tried to play the ol' illegal-immigration card at a big GOP confab last week. Pullen tried to pass a resolution condemning the White House plan for a guest-worker program, arguing that all we need to do is put enough law-enforcement resources on the border, and we can stop illegal immigration. Hey, it's sure worked so far!

Pullen's rebellion collapsed, and the RNC instead ended up supporting some sort of guest-worker plan.

Congressman Jim Kolbe, who is really tangling with the border-wall crowd these days, hit our e-mail box afterwards with a statement praising "the Republican Party and President Bush for renewing their commitments to a comprehensive border security plan. The bill passed in the House last year falls far short of acceptable. It pretends we would be doing something to secure our border when, in fact, we would not ... . I look forward to working on a real immigration plan that is more than political posturing."

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