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CONSIDER THE SOURCE

The Skinny got a good question from a high school science teacher the other day: Why is it, our friend wondered, that Republican state lawmakers will believe a letter written by a substitute teacher that proclaims that most Hispanic students want to be gang members and hate America, yet they won't believe scientists when they tell them that the Earth is warming up at a dangerous pace?

Our best guess: The idea that Hispanic kids are a menace to society fits in with the preconceived notions of Arizona's Republican leadership.

The story behind the racist screed read by Sen. Lori Klein on the state Senate floor during a debate on an immigration bill continued to unfold over the last week. The Glendale Elementary School District discovered that the letter writer, Tony Hill, did teach in one of their classes, but after interviewing students in the class, they determined that Hill's allegations "were not accurate."

What a surprise.

District officials have told the press that students might have acted up in Hill's class (which, if our memory serves, isn't unusual for a group of eighth-graders), but they deny many of Hill's specific accusations, including the assertion that they refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix New Times did enough digging into Hill's background to discover that he has a disturbing history of domestic abuse toward his estranged family, according to court records: verbally abusing the kids, choking the wife, physically abusing the family pet—yeah, that's the sort of guy who should be providing education-policy advice to the state.

We shouldn't even be talking about Hill, except that Klein lacked the judgment to recognize that unverified racist diatribes from random citizens have no place on the Senate floor.

But a lack of judgment seems par for the goofy golf course we call the Arizona Legislature. Just take a look at Sen. Al Melvin: He was so disturbed by the criticism of Klein that he took to the Senate floor just to thank her for reading the letter.

We've got to wonder if Klein and Melvin are plotting with Senate President Russell Pearce to say these disgraceful things just to distract everyone from the ugly business of the state budget cuts.


NEXT, WE'LL LEGISLATE A FLAT EARTH

Republicans love to sing the praises of a flat tax. It's just so simple and fair!

At least in theory. In practice, a flat tax—if it's going to bring in the same amount of revenue as our current progressive tax system—means shifting the tax burden so that the rich get a big break, and everyone else gets screwed.

Case in point: HB 2636, the flat-tax proposal that cleared the Senate Finance Committee last week.

An analysis of HB 2636 by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows that it would increase taxes on nearly nine out of 10 Arizona households, and give a giant break to the highest earners. Individual tax bills will vary depending on circumstances, but in the aggregate, those who make more than $100,000 will be paying less to the state, while those who make less than six figures will be paying more.

"It does create winners and losers," says Karen McLaughlin of the Children's Action Alliance. "And most of the middle class and the lower class would be the losers. They'd be paying more in taxes, and those at the high end of the income scale would be paying less."

We don't know about your definition of fairness, but ours does not include making the poor and the middle class pay more so that people who are at the top can pay less.

And you can forget about simplifying your taxes. Right now, Arizona taxes are easy for most folks: Start with your federal tax form; throw in a few credits; and wrap it up. But the GOP proposal requires you to undo some of your federal deductions, which makes the whole thing a lot more complicated.

A tax hike and more paperwork—all in the name of cutting taxes and simplifying your taxes. Once again, the Arizona Legislature is showing you how they can get everything ass-backwards.


FLAKE'S FLIP

Congressman Jeff Flake, the GOP front-runner in the race to replace Sen. Jon Kyl, has long had trouble with the nativist branch of Arizona Republican Party, because he has supported comprehensive immigration reform that included both increased border security and market-based reforms that didn't seek to deport every person who didn't enter the country legally or overstayed their visit.

Much like Sen. John McCain, Flake decided to deal with that problem last week by making a big about-face.

"In the past, I have supported a broad approach to immigration reform—increased border security coupled with a temporary worker program," Flake announced on his webpage. "I no longer do. I've been down that road, and it is a dead end. The political realities in Washington are such that a comprehensive solution is not possible, or even desirable given the current leadership. Border security must be addressed before other reforms are tackled."

Flake's flip is a perfect illustration of why we're probably in for years of dysfunctional border policies before federal lawmakers solve the problem: In GOP circles, it's just too easy to beat up on immigrants, and it's too hard to sell the idea that the solution should involve something besides rounding them all up and sending them home, no matter what the circumstances.

Democrats are pouncing on Flake's conversion. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted little time in coming up with a clip of Flake saying: "For those who don't agree with my position ... (and) think that it ought to be something different ... at least I think they give me a little credit for sticking with my position, because I've always believed this is what we need, and I continue to believe regardless of the political environment."

It's embarrassing to Flake, of course, but given the amnesia from which voters often suffer, we wonder if it will have any real impact on Flake's chances of winning the seat.

Besides: Democrats have plenty of problems of their own in Arizona, starting with finding a candidate who stands a chance of winning a statewide race.


SHOULD HE STAY, OR SHOULD HE GO?

Republican Ron Asta wants to know if you think he should stay in the race for Tucson mayor.

Asta, who has been hammered by the morning daily for apologizing for shoplifting a steak, yet not addressing a traffic accident that left an 18-year-old woman dead, has cut a TV ad that will air this Thursday, March 31, during the news, talking about the accident.

"I want to bring the issue of the traffic accident to a head," Asta says. "I want to hear from people about whether I should drop out."

Asta, a consultant to developers who served as a Democratic member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors in the 1970s, says he wants to stay in the race.

"It feels like I'm connecting with people, and I want to move forward," he says.

Let Asta know what you think at info@ronasta4mayor.com.


Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter: @nintzel

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