Unable to find that elusive 16th vote in the Arizona Senate, Gov. Jan Brewer is now suggesting that she may run an initiative campaign to get her temporary one-cent-per-dollar sales tax on the ballot.
The problem: Voters wouldn't have a chance to decide it before November 2010, when lawmakers—and Brewer herself, if she survives a GOP primary—will also be on the ballot.
The tax-hike proposition would be front and center in the legislative campaigns, which would come on the heels of what's likely to be another drawn-out legislative session, if recent years are any indication.
Plus, without a billion bucks or so in federal stimulus dollars, next year's budget promises to be even harder to balance, which is why Brewer is so insistent on having a sales tax in the first place. She believes that without the sales-tax revenues, the cuts to state services will be so deep that Republicans will pay a price at the polls—or at least she will, since she has to run statewide. Many of the state lawmakers will probably be safe in their individual districts, especially the hard-core GOP strongholds.
You can count on most Republicans to oppose a sales-tax prop, even as they justify deep cuts by arguing that the state can't afford any more spending. At the same time, Democrats have been opposed to the sales-tax proposition, partly because they are enjoying watching the GOP meltdown, and partly because the price that was demanded during the legislative session—a permanent $200 million income-tax cut for Arizona's wealthiest citizens in exchange for a temporary hike that mostly impacts the poor and middle class—struck them as a bad deal.
All of which means it would be hard to find much support from the political class for the sales-tax proposition, which would be hard enough to pass in an ideal political environment.
It appears that Ward 6 Councilwoman Nina Trasoff has finally been hitting the fundraising trail. Trasoff, who had been trailing Republican opponent Steve Kozachik in the money chase, has closed the gap, according to campaign-finance reports filed last week.
Trasoff reported raising a total of $47,351 as of Sept. 8 and had $33,002 left in the bank.
Trasoff has applied for matching funds under the city's publicly funded campaign program. Once she qualifies, Trasoff will be eligible to have private contributions matched by taxpayers, but she'll have to limit her spending to somewhere around $100,000. That means she's just about done with fundraising.
Kozachik still holds a slight lead in the fundraising race, having brought in $51,990. Kozachik, who had $35,116 left in the bank, also applied for matching funds earlier this week.
It's likely to take several weeks for auditors to confirm their eligibility for matching funds.
In Ward 3, Karin Uhlich had just less than $52,000 and received $36,787 in matching funds. She had $48,376 in the bank at the end of the reporting period.
Uhlich's Republican opponent, Ben Buehler-Garcia, raised $33,884 and had $24,643 left in the bank. Suzanne Mesich in the Tucson City Clerk's Office tells us that auditors are close to determining whether he has properly qualified for the matching funds.
Uhlich and Buehler-Garcia will be joined in the race by Green Party candidate Mary DeCamp, who got enough write-in votes during the primary to qualify for the general election ballot.
In Ward 5, where Councilman Steve Leal is stepping down after two decades, Democrat Richard Fimbres has raised roughly $31,000 and had $10,676 in the bank. Fimbres has qualified for matching funds but had not yet picked up a check as of last week.
Fimbres' Republican opponent, Shaun McClusky, had raised a total of $12,639 and had $8,449 left in the bank after defeating Judith Gomez in the Sept. 1 GOP primary.
Meanwhile, we're hearing a lot of rumblings that auto dealer Jim Click is assembling a team of business types to fund an independent campaign to aid Republicans. We wonder if he'll bring in his favorite political strategist, Phoenix-based Nathan Sproul, to run the campaign.
Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed lawsuits in state and federal courts to block a new state law restricting abortions.
The Planned Parenthood suit focuses on what it calls "medically unnecessary restrictions that have no parallels in any other medical context."
In particular, the new law prohibits qualified registered nurse practitioners from performing surgical abortions. Planned Parenthood depends on registered nurse practitioners to perform most abortions, because there's a shortage of physicians who are trained and/or willing to perform the procedure. At Tucson's Planned Parenthood center, for example, a nurse practitioner performed 70 percent of all abortions in 2008 and nearly 80 percent of all abortions in 2009.
The suit maintains that by making it illegal for a nurse practitioner to perform the procedure, the Legislature is essentially blocking access to abortions.
The suit also alleges that forcing parents to get notarized consent allowing minors to have abortions puts confidentiality at risk.
It's pretty clear that the reason for the new law had nothing to do with the safety of women—and a lot to do with making it harder for them to terminate their pregnancies if they so desire.
Arizona's resign-to-run law, which requires elected officials to resign from their jobs if they're running for another office (unless they're in the last year of their term), has been in the news a lot lately.
Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen is demanding an investigation into whether Attorney General Terry Goddard and state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema are eligible to remain in office.
We suspect Pullen's real concern is Goddard's ongoing investigation into whether the Arizona Republican Party illegally accepted a campaign contribution from a collection of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's crew to pay for one of the most twisted political ads we've had the displeasure of seeing, but that's another story.
In some ways, the Arizona Democratic Party asked for this trouble with all the noise they made about Senate President Tim Bee's decision to remain in office while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for his exploratory committee for Congress in 2007. Bee finished out his term in 2008 and went on to lose to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The underlying problem is that the resign-to-run law, passed by voters way back in 1980, is just plain goofy. Under the law, it's OK for officeholders to open exploratory committees and raise money, but they can't say certain magic words, like, "I am running for governor."
Ultimately, it gets down to a simple question: What is campaigning? It's drawing attention to yourself so that voters remember your name when they're in the voting booth.
That's why incumbents have a built-in advantage: People are already familiar with their names, and name ID is just about everything when it comes to running for most offices. Until there's some way to do something about that, the resign-to-run law will remain pretty much useless.
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