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DASH FOR CASH

GOP gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil is the first Republican to file for Clean Elections dollars. Thanks to a strong grassroots organization he built while leading the Center for Arizona Policy, a right-leaning Christian lobbying organization, Munsil applied for public funding last week. If everything turns out OK, he should get a check for $453,849 for spending in the primary.

That's probably more than Munsil could have raised had he gone the traditional route of asking for contributions, which shows how Clean Elections has really changed Arizona politics: It's empowered Republican conservatives.

Consider the Arizona Legislature: In the 2004 primaries, the GOP moderates who got knocked out of their seats were beaten by social conservatives who were funded by Clean Elections dollars. The winners would have never raised that kind of money without public dollars and would have been crushed by moderate, business-friendly Republicans who would now be making less noise about illegal immigration, abortion and government in general.

Let's face it: The Democrats getting elected to office don't differ appreciably from the Democrats who were getting elected before Clean Elections came into play. But the Republicans who are winning are radicalizing the Capitol. Wonder if the folks behind Clean Elections imagined that would happen when they ran their initiative?

Elsewhere on the GOP gubernatorial campaign circuit: Don Goldwater, the man with all of his uncle Barry's name ID and none of his political smarts, has put forward his immigration-reform measure: Capture illegal immigrants, imprison them in tents along the border and force them to pick up litter and build a wall. Boy, that strikes us as just the sort of reasonable idea that a Republican candidate can use to capture the moderate middle and beat Napolitano.

Wonder how Don's doing with his quest for the minimum 4,200 $5 contributions to qualify for Clean Elections?

One Republican who isn't chasing $5 contributions is Mike Harris, the self-described "physical conservative" who plans to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into his campaign, even though he recently told a judge that he needed a break from child-support payments for his only kid.

At a GOP get-together in Tucson last weekend, Harris floated the delusional notion that he was going to raise $3 million to $4 million and outspend Napolitano. Sure, Mike. Just because Republican Matt Salmon--a former congressman with real political connections--could only raise about $2 million in 2002 doesn't mean a guy nobody knows can't raise twice that.


LOST IN TRANSLATION

To no great surprise, federal judge Raner Collins last week rejected the English-language learner plan passed by GOP lawmakers earlier this session.

The plan, which was reluctantly passed along to Collins by Gov. Janet Napolitano (who also sent along a nice note explaining why she thought it, well, sucked), was supposed to resolve a long-running federal lawsuit that determined that the state wasn't spending enough to educate kids who don't speak English. The lawsuit was so long-running, in fact, that Collins was fining the state a million bucks a day for failing to resolve the situation--which, in his opinion, they've still failed to do.

Whether his opinion will be the one that counts remains to be seen. GOP leaders, who maintain that their plan is sufficient, are appealing the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which means nothing is gonna happen until July--and presumably, the legislative session will be over by then, provided that some sort of budget emerges.


SPEAKING OF THE BUDGET

The good news at the Capitol: It appears that GOP leaders are starting to show their budget proposal. The bad news: Rank-and-file lawmakers say it looks like they're going to have to pass at least one crappy budget that's sure to get vetoed, just to get it out of the conservatives' system.

And that means the session is going to continue to drag along, keeping legislators from collecting petition signatures and campaign contributions. Boo-hoo!


SPEAKING OF THE BUDGET, PART II

One week after City Manager Mike Hein delivered his budget proposal, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry revealed his spending plan for next year.

Yielding to yelps of outrage over skyrocketing property values, Huckelberry has produced a $1.28 billion budget. That's $68 million more than this year.

But Huckelberry promises to deliver some level of property-tax relief, although what that means, in these days of rising property values, remains to be seen.

Figuring out property taxes is like watching one of those guys at the carnival play the old shell game. See if you can follow along: Huckelberry hopes to slash primary property-tax rates, but a chunk of those savings will be lost by an increase in property taxes to compensate for the money that the city isn't contributing to the libraries. (Remember how that was sold as a tax savings by city officials?) The end result--which kinda makes our head spin--is a drop in combined property-tax rates to roughly $5.30 per $100 in assessed valuation, which comes out to the lowest rate in eight years, according to Huckelberry.

Of course, with those rising property values, people may well see an increase in their property-tax bill, but that math is way too hard for us to try to tackle on deadline. If Chris Limberis were still around, we're sure he could figure it all out. Among the big increases in Huck's budget:

  • $10 million for law enforcement, including $1.7 million for 29 new deputies.
  • $2.4 million for parks.
  • $4.5 million for health care for the elderly and indigent.
  • $8 million for raises for county employees.


HEY, VERN!

Remember Vernon Walker, the Republican City Council candidate who abandoned his campaign following a Tucson Weekly exposé that revealed how his questionable business practices had him dragged into court by plaintiffs ranging from college co-eds who had to fight to get their rental deposit back to the Tucson Association for the Blind, which alleged that he had somehow ended up with $45,000 of the organization's money in his bank account while serving on the board?

Well, he's back. Walker has sued Pima County, saying that officials have unfairly prevented him from remodeling another one of his rentals.

Walker got stuck with a $750 fine for failing to get the proper permits and continuing to work on the house even after county officials had told him to cease and desist.

Walker made a bizarre appeal to the board last summer that included the explanation (and we quote precisely): "... the inspector insists I right down every thing the previous owner has done no one could possibly no what the previous owner has done since any plans submitted at the time of permits were destroyed by the County and there is no living person to testify as to everything what was done ... If you allowed this Inspectors activity to continue, it would be tantamount to saying to this inspector that he can criminally trespass on your property, scare a lady in the bedroom look around take pictures and make up a story that you added something such as a beam and make you prove it knowing that any plans of the original house had been destroyed by Development Services. This is not a murder case and should have a statue of limitations on it."

Supervisors were not persuaded by his ramblings and rejected his appeal.

Walker has now acquired a real lawyer, though he had to go to

Prescott to find Scott K. Risley, who argues that the county's decision was based on inadmissible evidence and is "arbitrary, irrational and capricious."

Our advice to Risley: Get your payments in advance.

More by Jim Nintzel

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