The Range

Money Shot

When was the last time the boss offered you a $12,000-a-year raise? The state Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers voted to recommend that the annual pay for state lawmakers be increased from $24,000 to $36,000.

Sure, 24K sounds like a lousy paycheck. But we'd point out that these bozos could give themselves a raise--or at least more vacation days--if they'd get down to the business of passing a budget and wrapping up the session.

Only one thing stands between them and the new bling: You, the voter! Yes, that's right--you get the final say this November. If gambling on the outcomes of campaigns weren't illegal in Arizona, we'd bet the budget shortfall that this one goes down by at least 30 points on Election Day. After all, that was the margin when voters rejected the same proposal two years ago.

The commission also recommended a boost in annual pay for other state offices, including the governor (an increase of $65K to $160,000), the attorney general (a hike of $45K to $135,000) and the secretary of state (a hike of $40K to $110,000). Superior Court judges would go from $120,750 to $145K, while the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court would go from $129,150 to a nice, round $160K. Incidentally, you don't get a say in these; the Legislature can make these changes without voter approval.

State lawmakers were recently generous with county officials, approving big increases in pay in a bill signed last week by Gov. Janet Napolitano. In big counties like Pima and Maricopa, most elected officials, including supervisors, will go from $54,600 to $67,800, while county attorneys will climb from $96,600 to $109,450 and sheriffs will go from $78,750 to $89,225.

Wonder if that generosity had something to do with the notion that lawmakers might be forced out of the Legislature by term limits and go home to run for county office. Too bad they don't want to become school teachers after concluding their legislative careers.

It's Still Cheaper Than Evian

Gas prices broke another new high last week, topping out at an average of $2.044 a gallon, according to Yvette Ortiz Lopez of AAA Arizona, who notes that "recent spikes in gasoline prices has prompted the release of a report by the Consumer Federation of American and Consumer's Union that accuses refiners of curtailing gasoline supplies to drive up prices and profits."

Meanwhile, Stanwood & Partners Public Relations of Wyoming has sent The Range a water bottle, a peanut-butter Clif bar and a press release announcing that we're in the midst of National Bike to Work Week. Riding a bike, Carson Stanwood tells us, has many positive benefits: "As you kiss your dependence on cars, gasoline and traffic reports goodbye, you will improve your health, your household and maybe even the world at large." Hey, we'd love to do our part, if the temperature wasn't fixin' to break the century mark. Incidentally, Sunday's high in Casper: 68 degrees.

A Star Is Born

Our state Capitol finally drew the attention of our favorite news program, Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Correspondent Ed Helms brought us a segment on state Rep. Randy Graf's effort to eliminate what Helms called a "bizarre loophole" in state law: the ban on bringing guns into establishments that sell alcohol. The bill has passed the House of Representatives but has stalled in the Senate.

Graf explained to Helms that in his previous career as a golf pro, "For many years, I had to interpret the rules of golf. And the rules of golf book is 65 pages or so long. We've got our Constitution here. I read that as my latest rulebook."

Graf is challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe in the Congressional District 8 Republican primary this September.

Elsewhere at the Legislature, the House continues trimming away at the $7.3 billion budget the Senate quickly passed a few weeks ago. But will leadership have the votes to pass it when they're done? Don't count on it.

Meanwhile, Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed the Animal and Ecological Terrorism bill, meaning those damned environmentalists can go on plotting within their cells, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

In related news, pollster Earl de Berge reported that his latest Rocky Mountain Poll showed that the percentage of voters who think Napolitano has been doing a good or excellent job has slid from 49 to 43 percent, while the number of people who thinks she's doing a poor or very poor job climbed from 20 to 23 percent. The drop in popularity was most serious in rural areas.

The conclusion drawn by a weekly Republican Party e-bulletin: The poll "confirmed what we already know; Gov. Napolitano is wrong for Arizona." Wonder what GOP activists make of the results of two other recent Rocky Mountain polls: The GOP-controlled Legislature got positive marks from only 25 percent of voters, while President George Bush's approval rating sunk to 45 percent--the lowest of his presidency.

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