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SUPER TROUBLE

There was a moment during last week's Iowa debate among the Republican presidential contenders that showed just how pathological the GOP has become regarding taxes: All of the candidates said they'd reject a budget deal that cut $10 in spending for every $1 in higher taxes.

For the typical GOP candidate, it doesn't matter who pays the taxes; it doesn't matter if a revamp of the tax system improves the economy, creates more jobs and helps reduce the federal deficit. The most important part of any tax plan for a mainstream Republican is that the federal government doesn't estimate that it will collect more revenue.

This is a nutty standard, especially when polls consistently show Americans—generally by a 2-to-1 margin—prefer a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts to a plan that just cuts spending.

Nonetheless, it's the default GOP position today—and a position frequently embraced by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who was appointed last week to the new Super Committee that's supposed to come up with some kind of deficit-reduction plan. If the Super Committee can't come up with a plan—or if the plan they produce is rejected by Congress—then the country is supposed to face deep cuts in both entitlement programs and the Pentagon.

Because of his no-new-taxes mantra, we don't expect much from Kyl on the Super Committee. When he voted on the debt-ceiling increase earlier this month, Kyl made a point of complaining about the potential cuts to the military if the Super Committee could not come to an agreement.

"Can you imagine anything more irresponsible than for the commander in chief of the military to promote, not just promote, but insist on the knowing destruction of the U.S. military as a means to threaten Congress?" Kyl wondered.

We found it to be an odd accusation from a member of a political party that had been pushing for the knowing destruction of the global economy as a means to threaten the president, but evidently Kyl views cutting military spending as a bigger problem than crashing the economy.

Kyl's comments made it pretty clear where he stands: He doesn't want to raise taxes, and he doesn't want to cut the military. He doesn't seem all that worried about programs that help ordinary Americans.

Kyl could really surprise us with a dramatic change of heart (especially since he's not running for re-election) on the Super Committee. He could declare that, in order to keep the military strong and our elderly citizens safe from a life of poverty and ill health, he's changing his position and embracing a revamp of the tax code that eliminates deductions, lowers the overall rates, brings in more revenue and strengthens America's future.

Nah—that's never gonna happen.


UNHEALTHY ARIZONA

Gov. Jan Brewer and Arizona's Republican lawmakers won a big battle in court last week over whether they're obligated to fund health-care coverage for poor Arizonans.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain ruled that state lawmakers are not obligated to fund the state's AHCCCS program, even though voters expanded the program in the 2000 election.

As we've reported before ("Draining Arizona Health Care," July 14), attorney Tim Hogan, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, sued the state after Gov. Jan Brewer announced plans to block state-subsidized insurance coverage for childless adults below the federal poverty line as part of a plan to cut more than $500 million from health-care spending.

Hogan argued that because the AHCCCS expansion was put in place by voters, it fell under the Voter Protection Act and couldn't be reduced without another vote of the people.

But Brain said that the law does not require the Legislature to fund the entire program. Brain's central takeaway: "The Legislature does not have an enforceable duty to fund Proposition 204, and the scope (and limits) of defendant (AHCCCS Director Tom) Betlach's duty is to continue to ensure that his agency is providing health care to the extent possible under Proposition 204 within the limits of the funding provided to him."

Dr. Eve Shapiro, who was one of the original supporters of Prop 204, tells The Skinny that Hogan will appeal, and that for now, the cuts will remain in place.

The Brewer administration is still awaiting federal approval of other steps that it wants to take to reduce health-care spending, including reducing coverage for parents who earn between 75 and 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and creating new fees and fines for patients who use AHCCCS but miss appointments or have unhealthy lifestyles.


LIMITED CHOICE

Arizona's abortion opponents also had a good day in court last week when the Arizona Court of Appeals lifted an injunction that blocked a 2009 law from going into effect.

As a result, abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood will now have to follow the provisions of the Abortion Consent Act.

Gov. Jan Brewer cheered the decision as "a great day for Arizona women and parents."

"The 2009 Abortion Consent Act empowers women by giving them the objective information they need prior to deciding whether to have an abortion," Brewer said in a statement. "Women deserve all the facts from their physician, in-person, before making such a critical decision. Today's court decision will help guarantee that."

Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood Arizona CEO Bryan Howard disagrees.

"There's no scenario that came out of last week that's a good one in terms of real-life Arizona women," Howard says. "We have to figure out what the implications are."

Without getting too deeply into the details, the legal situation is complicated because of a separate lawsuit regarding other abortion restrictions, as well as the manner in which the appellate court ruled, so Planned Parenthood staff is still trying to figure out how they can offer abortion services.

One of the primary results: Women seeking abortions will now have to hear a Legislature-approved script in person from a doctor at least 24 hours before they undergo an abortion.

Since the law was passed, Planned Parenthood has been making sure that women hear the script at least 24 hours before they get an abortion—but they've been using nurses to read the information to women over the phone.

Howard says nurses have been reading the information—which has a number of statements that have nothing to do with medical care, such as the services available to single moms—because Arizona already has a shortage of doctors who can provide abortion care, so adding another in-person consultation to the schedule presents a problem. For Planned Parenthood, which provides about 10,000 abortions to women annually in Arizona, that would mean 10,000 new consultations.

"It wouldn't make any sense to hire a physician to read a script, nor would a physician be willing to use her medical education to just read to patients," Howard says.

Howard says that Planned Parenthood will probably not have to close any health centers, but it will have trouble providing abortion services outside of Phoenix and Tucson.

He says the organization would have a better idea of how they will move forward later this week.

Howard adds that Planned Parenthood would continue to fight the case in court.

"We continue to pursue these cases," Howard says.

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