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STIMULATING DEBATE

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was out touting the use of stimulus dollars to build a new federal courthouse in Yuma earlier this week.

Giffords said the new courthouse—which will cost $28 million—will relieve pressure on the federal courthouse in downtown Tucson, which is struggling to handle the increased burden of prosecuting illegal immigrants who cross the border, in addition to other court business.

Giffords says having modern courthouses is a vital step toward getting control of the border.

"Yes, putting more boots on the border is absolutely critical, and we've done a lot of that," Giffords says. "We need to enhance interior enforcement with checkpoints. We've increased the number of attorneys, but not the ability to actually process people, so this will do that. And for the people in Yuma, they'll be hiring carpenters and engineers and backhoe operators. These are real jobs for Arizona."

Expect to see Giffords highlighting more stimulus projects as her GOP opponents badger her for supporting the Obama administration's economic plans, even as employment remains in double-digits. In the course of just a few minutes, Giffords was able to rattle off a long list that included job-training programs, construction projects at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca, improvements on Interstate 10, and a new building for a food bank in Amado.

State Sen. Jonathan Paton wasted no time in going after Giffords for her stimulus vote. Just days after he jumped into the four-way GOP primary in Congressional District 8, he fired off a bulletin to the press busting on Giffords for supporting "$1 trillion in spending under Nancy Pelosi's so-called stimulus bill, claiming we'd witness the creation of 40,000 new jobs. Talk about fuzzy math. In the month of December alone, U.S. employers were forced to cut 85,000 jobs—as Washington continued to ignore the problem and focus entirely on implementing a government-run health care system."

But Paton's own math is a little fuzzy. While we appreciate hyperbole as much as anyone, he overstates the amount of the stimulus (the total was $787 billion) and neglects to acknowledge that about 43 percent of the total went to tax cuts, not additional spending.

"It was the largest tax cut in American history," Giffords says. "And 70 percent of the tax cuts, for a total of $230 billion, went to middle-income workers. There were $6 billion in tax cuts for small businesses."

Paton admits he agrees with some of the tax cuts in the stimulus package, but complains that others targeted specific industries (such as solar efforts) too much, rather than benefitting a wider base.

While he can support increasing the federal deficit in exchange for tax cuts, any stimulus spending is too much for Paton. If he'd been faced with the same kind of economic downturn earlier this year, Paton says, he would have pushed for more corporate tax breaks and reductions in taxes on capital gains rather than spending more federal dollars on infrastructure, whether it was a federal courthouse in Yuma or a new port of entry in Nogales.

He also would have opposed spending on aid to states—including Arizona, which stands on the edge of financial catastrophe, even with the billion dollars or so in stimulus dollars that have gone to the state. Paton says he would have rather cut another billion dollars from education, health care and other programs—even though the Legislature has already cut more than a billion in spending and still faces a $5 billion shortfall over the next 18 months.

"We would have cut a lot sooner than we are doing now," Paton says. "All it's been is a Band-Aid. ... We've delayed the inevitable, but the inevitable is still going to come, unless you're going to do another stimulus package. ... Most people I talk to aren't complaining about their health care. They're complaining that they don't have a job, or they're complaining that every other business they go to is closing down in the state."

Giffords argues that without the stimulus, ordinary Arizonans would be facing even harder times than they already are.

"Jonathan has already voted for some of the largest budget cuts in Arizona history," Giffords says. "These cuts would have had a deeper impact without stimulus dollars from the federal government to cushion the blow. ... What are you going to cut? Are you going to cut more from the universities? From K-12? Are you going to cut more from the state Medicaid program? Public safety and housing?"

However, Paton has no regrets about voting to accept the stimulus dollars and avoiding deeper cuts to state government.

"Arizona should be treated fairly with the other states," he says. "I wouldn't have said, 'No, we're not going to take it,' when everyone else has it."


HAYWORTH TARGETS MCCAIN

Republican J.D. Hayworth has quit his Phoenix radio show and announced that he plans to challenge U.S. Sen. John McCain in this August's GOP primary.

Hayworth, whose career as a congressman came to an end in 2006 when he lost his GOP district to Democrat Harry Mitchell, was a mere 2 percentage points behind McCain in a November Rasmussen poll.

But last week, Rasmussen released a new set of numbers showing that 53 percent of Republicans support McCain, while only 31 percent support Hayworth. (Chris Simcox, a founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, was way back with only 4 percent of the vote, while 8 percent of the voters were undecided.)

Still, the anti-incumbent mood is strong right now, and McCain has long had his share of critics among Arizona Republicans. He's certainly taking Hayworth's challenge seriously, having already hit the radio waves with ads supporting his re-election.

Last week, The Skinny was among those who received a robo-call from new Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown urging us to support McCain, and we've already heard that Sarah Palin will be stumping for our senior senator later this spring. Oddly enough, Palin's campaign swing for McCain comes to the dismay of some of her loyal fans, who see McCain as a phony establishment figure who has worn out his welcome—or, in other words, Hayworth voters.

Look for McCain to hammer Hayworth as a pork-lovin' politician who never saw an earmark he didn't like and a crook who buddied up to lobbyists like the disgraced Jack Abramoff.


SAGUARO RANCH SMOKING GUN?

Saguaro Ranch opponents think they may have finally found their smoking gun, thanks to former McClintock's restaurant manager Denis Boaro, who testified in a recent deposition that members of the Marana Town Council, along with Town Manager Gilbert Davidson, enjoyed thousands of dollars of free meals at developer Stephen Phinny's restaurant—even as they plotted to abandon a disputed easement that ran across Phinny's property.

On Jan. 19, Phinny's critical neighbors filed an amendment to a lawsuit against the town to include the allegations made in the deposition.

Rodney Campbell, Marana's public information officer, says town officials didn't receive free food and drink in exchange for abandoning the easement. Campbell said there may have been occasions when Davidson ate for free at the restaurant, but those were special community events, such as Marana Arts Council meetings.

If Boaro's allegations turn out to be true, Marana officials could face some serious questions about whether they've violated open-meeting laws and failed to properly report gifts.

Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.

More by Mari Herreras

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