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With the primary election underway, candidates have moved into "destroy your opponent" mode

Election Month Is Here

Early voting starts this week in the Aug. 26 primary and the crowded, six-way GOP governor's race is starting to tighten up.

While the polls released to the public have been somewhat mixed (and only somewhat reliable), many political observers see Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey and attorney Christine Jones as the front runners at this point, with former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith trying to move up from third place.

So it's no surprise that Ducey and Jones are concentrating their efforts on each other, with Ducey calling Jones a "phony" and Jones calling Ducey "desperate." Smith, meanwhile, is releasing videos that point out the absurdity of many of the proposals that have come from Jones and Ducey, particularly in the area of border security and the state budget.

Speaking of absurd border-security measures, GOP gubernatorial candidate Andrew Thomas released his border-security plan, which included what he dubbed the "Patton Line," named for the late Gen. George Patton, who worked on border security before becoming a WWII hero. Thomas—who was disbarred for abusing his powers as Maricopa County attorney to pursue his political enemies—proposes building a double-layer fence across the state. While he acknowledged that the state won't be able to build the fence on federal land or Native American reservations without permission of those governments, he has a fallback plan: He vows to build it across the middle of the state where he can't build it along the border and said citizens would just have to pass through checkpoints while traveling Arizona's highways. The Skinny has no detail as to which side of the fence Tucson would end up on, but if Thomas is governor, we're hoping we end up on the Mexico side.

State financial picture looks increasingly dire

Budget Crunch

Even as many of the Republican gubernatorial candidates promise future tax cuts if elected, the state's financial picture looks increasingly dire.

The biggest problem is the recent ruling that the state must increase funding for education in accordance with a voter mandate that came with a sales-tax dedicated to education.

State lawmakers have ignored the law calling for education spending to be increased for inflation, but the courts have ruled that they broke the law in doing so and must start coming up with more cash, starting with about $317 million in this fiscal year. If the courts order back payment, the cumulative total over the next five years could hit nearly $2.9 billion, according to estimates from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

The JLBC forecasts other financial problems on the horizon. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the state's tax collections were $113 million below forecast and the growth in state revenues over the previous year was an estimated 2.8 percent, which was the lowest growth rate since 2010. The state was hoping to have a budget surplus of $596 million, but it looks more likely to be $530 million, which represents a problem because that money is supposed to be used to plug the upcoming shortfall that will result when corporate tax cuts passed years ago begin taking a bigger bite out of revenues in upcoming years.

At a debate earlier this week, all of the GOP candidates said they'd rather continue to fight the school-funding ruling in court than increase spending on schools—even though the case has already moved through the Arizona Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the education advocates.

Now a lower court is sorting out whether the state will be required to fork over the back payments.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal said he'd work to implement the funding increases.

"We can't tolerate any more delays, any more appeals, any more excuses, any more cuts," DuVal said in a prepared statement. "Our children's schools need reinvestment, and they need it now! Rather than continuing to fight against Arizona's schoolchildren, this ruling presents an opportunity to reinvest in our schools and give our children the benefit of these additional resources as soon as possible."

New report ranks Arizona as one of the worst states for child welfare

Bottom of the Barrel

Arizona is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to taking care of children, according to the annual Kids Count report, which compares spending on programs across the 50 states.

The state's overall rank is 46th out of 50. The state was also 46th in both the economic well-being of kids (as determined by the number of children living in poverty, according to Census data) and the family and community ranking, which measures a variety of factors, including teen births as well as the number of kids who live in households with a single parent, in homes where the head of household lacks a high-school diploma, and in areas that are considered high-poverty areas. Arizona's education ranking—based on the number of kids attending pre-school, the number of fourth graders who are proficient in reading, the number of eighth graders who are proficient in math and the number of high school kids who graduate in four years—was 44th in the nation. AZ was also 44th in the health ranking, which was determined by the number of low-birth-weight babies, kids without health insurance, the rate of child and teen deaths and the number of kids mixed up with drugs and/or alcohol.

Attorney General Tom

Horne takes abortion

fight to Supreme Court

Pill Politics

After a federal appeals court blocked state regulations regarding the way doctors can dispense medication to terminate pregnancies, Attorney General Tom Horne announced he'd take the matter up the ladder to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood officials accused Horne of using his office and taxpayer dollars to boost his scandal-plagued reelection effort against fellow Republican Mark Brnovich in the Aug. 26 GOP primary.

"In doing so, Attorney General Horne is extending the legacy of extremist Arizona politicians who have repeatedly sought to impose restrictions on access to abortion and contraception, despite being forwarned that these measures violate women's rights to privacy and their ability to make their own health care decisions without interference," said Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

Meanwhile, Brnovich has won Gov. Jan Brewer's endorsement in the race.

"It has been my experience that doing the right thing often means doing the hard thing," Brewer said in a press release. "That's why I look for candidates with the courage of conviction to stand for Arizona and who are willing to stand up against the Obama administration. Mark Brnovich is that kind of candidate."

More by Jim Nintzel

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