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THE LEASE OF YOUR WORRIES

Tucson City Manager Mike Letcher is taking one last stab at persuading Mayor Bob Walkup and the City Council to approve a 2 percent rental tax on residential properties.

That would mean, if you paid $600 a month in rent, you'd see an increase of $12.

It would also mean big bucks for the city; Letcher estimates that it would bring in anywhere from $10 million to $13 million annually, which would go a long way toward plugging an estimated $55 million gap in next year's budget.

Letcher has twice tried to get the council to pass the rental tax, which is standard operating procedure in every major city in the state besides Flagstaff. But council members, facing some of the angriest crowds they've seen at City Hall, have resisted the idea.

And if they don't pass it this time, they'll probably lose their chance to do so. Republicans at the Arizona Legislature are pushing a new law that would require cities to ask voters to approve a rental tax, rather than allowing local councils to make the decision.

You might think that state lawmakers, who are railing mightily against the powers of the federal government, would not be so eager to meddle in local affairs. But you'd be mistaking their motivation. GOP lawmakers are not really concerned about local control; they're actually focused on making government at all levels be as hamstrung, inefficient and weak as possible. That way, they can ensure that when they say that government doesn't work, they're right.

But we digress. Even if council members now realize that this is their last chance to pass the tax, it's gonna be hard to rustle up the four votes necessary to enact the new tax.

The three members up for election this year—Democrats Shirley Scott, Regina Romero and Paul Cunningham—aren't likely to support it, for obvious reasons. That means Letcher would have to get the support of Walkup and the other three members of the council.

Walkup could support the rental tax, especially if he's already decided not to seek reelection this year. He's told us in the past that he doesn't support the proposal, but that doesn't mean he couldn't change his mind—if he thought there were enough votes to get it passed.

Democrats Richard Fimbres and Karin Uhlich have opposed the tax in the past, although Uhlich has sometimes wavered and suggested that maybe a 1 percent tax could be passed.

If you ask us, splitting the difference doesn't make much sense; the voters will be just as mad over a 1 percent tax as they would be over a 2 percent tax, while the city would only get half the revenue. If you're gonna rip off the Band-Aid, you might as well do it all at once.

Finally, there's the unpredictable Steve Kozachik, the Republican who represents midtown Ward 6. We haven't asked him lately, but the Koz hasn't supported the idea of a rental tax in the past and has pushed harder than any other member of the council for cuts, so we don't see him joining in to support Letcher's latest pitch.

In other words: We suspect that Letcher had better start looking elsewhere for money.


SURVEY SAYS...

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl has been cagey about his plans to seek reelection in 2012, but a recent survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling outfit, shows that if he wants to run, it doesn't look like anyone on the Democratic bench would be likely to beat him.

Kyl had the approval of 47 percent of Arizona voters, compared to just 40 percent who disapproved of the job that he's doing, according the PPP survey of 599 Arizona voters between Jan. 28 and 30.

Kyl had a big lead over the Democrats that PPP matched him up against. He beat former attorney general Terry Goddard, 50 percent to 40 percent, and knocked down former governor and current Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, 53 percent to 41 percent. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick fared even worse.

The survey also showed that Kyl remains popular with Arizona Republicans. A full 70 percent of GOP primary voters approve the job that Kyl is doing, while just 16 percent disapprove of him. And 68 percent of those Republican primary voters think he's ideologically "about right," while 10 percent think he's too conservative and 9 percent think he's too liberal—maybe because he hasn't called for Obama's impeachment on the grounds that he's a secret Muslim from Kenya who's determined to kill the white man with his death panels and exercise camps.

But here's the rub for Kyl, according to PPP's Tom Jensen:

"So you would expect that when asking Republicans whether they want their candidate to be Kyl or someone more conservative next year that he would be around 70 percent on that question, right? Wrong. Only 46 percent of primary voters commit to supporting Kyl in that instance while 30 percent say they'd take someone more conservative. Even though all but 9 percent think Kyl is conservative enough, 30 percent still want someone more conservative. For about a third of the GOP primary electorate, no matter how conservative you are, if they can find someone to the right of you they'll trade you in. Kyl himself probably won't have to deal too much with that reality but many others in the party will."

And that's why it's just about impossible, in today's political environment, to successfully run to the left of an incumbent in today's GOP primary system. Being too far to the right is simply not a liability in a primary—and last year, at least, it wasn't a liability in a general election for a state office (although it did—just barely—stop Republican Jesse Kelly from toppling Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords).

On the other hand, GOP primary voters appear to be a little more strategic when it comes to their early support for presidential candidates. The PPP survey also notes that while reality-TV star Sarah Palin is the most popular of the potential candidates surveyed—66 percent of GOP primary voters like her—she's tied for third as a choice for a presidential nominee.

Mitt Romney actually leads the GOP presidential pack, with support from 23 percent of GOP voters. (That may have something to do with Arizona Republicans feeling comfortable with Mormon candidates—or maybe they just really like the individual mandate that was at the heart of the health care reform plan he pushed through in Massachusetts. We kid, we kid. We're sure even Romney himself hates his job-killing signature accomplishment these days.)

Mike Huckabee came in second, with 19 percent. And just 15 percent say they like either Palin or Newt Gingrich.

The PPP survey also showed that Palin was the only Republican candidate who trailed President Barack Obama among general-election voters. Obama trailed Romney by 6 percentage points and Huckabee by 4 percentage points, while he was tied with Gingrich, with both men capturing 46 percent of the vote.

But Obama had a big lead over Palin, with 49 percent of the voters supporting him and 41 percent supporting Palin.

And check out these favorability ratings: Only 45 percent of Arizona voters approve of the job that Obama is doing, but they sure don't like Palin: 57 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of her, compared to 39 percent who like her.


Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter: @nintzel

More by Jim Nintzel

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