Running Scared

Democrat Andrea Dalessandro hopes to give the GOP representatives in LD 30 a run for their money

As they speak to about 60 party loyalists and precinct committeemen at a Republican meeting in Green Valley, state Reps. David Gowan and Ted Vogt hand out campaign literature. One side has their names; the other side says, simply, "Vote for the good guys."

Gowan is a magazine distributor who was first elected to the House in 2008; Vogt is a recent UA law-school graduate and Air Force veteran who earlier this year was appointed to Frank Antenori's House seat after Antenori was appointed to the state Senate. They are running against a lone Democrat in this GOP-heavy district: certified public accountant Andrea Dalessandro.

While the district is solidly Republican, and the office-holders easily dispatched their four GOP challengers in the primary election, both say they're not taking their seats for granted.

"There are only two ways of running (for office)," says Vogt. "You're either running unopposed, or you're running scared."

Dalessandro, who lost her bid for a LD 30 House seat in 2008 by roughly 5,000 votes, says the incumbents should be scared. She cites a recent Morrison Institute poll which says 68 percent of Arizonans, and even 61 percent of Republicans, disapprove or strongly disapprove of the way the Arizona Legislature is handling the state budget and taxes.

"The issues that brought me into the race in 2008 still exist, and they've exponentially increased," she says. "I've really never stopped campaigning."

Despite the serious Democratic disadvantage in the district, Dalessandro has raised more money than her opponents—and she didn't have to spend any of it in the primary. (Gowan is a Clean Elections candidate, and therefore has limits on what he can spend.)

Vogt says he'll ultimately prevail, because Arizonans like what he and Gowan have been doing at the Legislature—from passing SB 1070 and suing the federal government over "Obamacare," to cutting billions of dollars from the state budget.

"The people in District 30, they like that we've been up there instituting spending reductions in the state. People just felt that too much money was being spent," Vogt says.

Whether or not voters think the state is collecting enough revenue is another issue—and one of the major points of contention during the next legislative session is sure to be "Arizona's Job Recovery Act."

The massive tax-cut bill—pushed earlier this year by House Speaker Kirk Adams—would phase out the state property tax completely, and cut income taxes, personal property taxes and other taxes over the next seven years; nearly all of the tax cuts would benefit Arizona's wealthiest residents and business owners. It would cost the state an estimated $60 million in the first year, and nearly $650 million per year by the time it is fully implemented in 2018.

The tax cuts are meant to lure business and jobs to Arizona, but opponents say they would cost the state millions of dollars—with no guarantee of recouping that revenue through growth—and ultimately shift the tax burden to individuals.

Even the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Legislature's number-crunching agency, said in a fiscal analysis that "the revenue feedback effect due to the overall change in economic activity resulting from these tax and business incentive changes" are "difficult to quantify."

Despite a lot of arm-twisting, Adams failed to get the bill through the upper chamber after Senate President Bob Burns said the state couldn't afford to cut taxes while fighting to get out of the recession.

Now that Burns is being termed out, and Gov. Jan Brewer's sales-tax hike has passed—she said she wouldn't support corporate tax cuts while asking voters to increase their own taxes—Adams is expected to introduce similar legislation next year.

Gowan, who was a co-sponsor of the 2010 bill, says the legislation is key to getting Arizona's economy on track and getting people back to work.

"If you lower the taxes for business, they're going to be able to grow ... and they'll come here instead of hopping over to one of the other Southern states," Gowan says. "They'll come here and expand our employment base here, so we can put our people back to work, because when we put our people back to work, they pay taxes, too."

Though Vogt didn't get the chance to vote on the tax-cut package last session, he says he would support something like it if returned to the Legislature. He says that the taxes that businesses pay on investments are too high, and that the proposed cuts would be phased in responsibly.

"There are no guarantees in life except one: What we are currently doing, the status quo, is failing the people of Arizona," he says. "We have lost 300,000 jobs, and businesses that have remained here are finding it hard to stay in business. We need to be aggressive, because other states are being aggressive in going out there and trying to get businesses (currently located) in Arizona."

Dalessandro says she supports targeted tax cuts for high-tech industries like bioscience and solar energy, but they need to be balanced by closing tax loopholes and ending some tax credits, like the credit for private-school tuition. She wouldn't vote for the "across-the-board" cuts outlined in Adams' bill.

"When the tax rates are low already, and you cut them, all you do is increase the structural deficit," she says. "All you do is cause more pain—more cuts to education."

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