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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Trouble brewing with ‘Tea Party Senate’

As a result of the Nov. 2 election, Arizona Republicans have increased their majority in the State Legislature. Republicans now outnumber Democrats in the Senate 21 to 9 and 40 to 20 in the House of Representatives. The Republicans also hold all major state offices, including governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state superintendent of public instruction. Democrats will be pretty useless over the next few years, and the Republican leadership won’t care one bit what the other side of the aisle has to say. The unpredictable, “”purple”” Arizona that only three years ago had a Democratic governor can now be colored in the boldest shade of red.

So what can we expect from the new leadership? More budget cuts, tax increases, and all-out nuttiness.

Last week, Republicans in the Senate selected their new president. Whom did they choose? None other than Sen. Russell Pearce, the tough-talking sponsor of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070, known for getting his way and for his inability to compromise. Pearce says the chamber will be known as the “”Tea Party Senate,”” reflecting his will to “”take a bottom-up approach that listens to the people’s will on fiscal accountability issues and not follow mandates from the Republican National Committee.””

This sounds nice; after all, who doesn’t like a bottom-up approach that listens to the people’s will? However, somebody should tell the “”Tea Party Senate’s president-elect”” that most Arizonans don’t like cutting popular programs to solve the current budgetary mess, something the Republican caucus inevitably plans to do.

In last week’s election, voters rejected Propositions 301 and 302, which would have taken funding away from early childhood health and development programs as well as a land conservation fund, in order to help close the gap in the state’s budget. Also, earlier this year, Arizonans voted for a tax increase in order to aid the state’s struggling education system. However, none of this matters to the members of the Legislature, as they will continue to believe that cutting the budget is the only way to solve the current mess. They will continue cutting education (especially funding for universities), early childhood health care and other popular programs, all in the name of fiscal responsibility.

Pearce says the Legislature will trim the fat out of the state’s budget, eliminating government waste. However, isn’t that what the Legislature has been doing for the past two years? Any waste the legislators are able to find (if any) will surely be miniscule and have very little effect on the budget as a whole. All that’s really left to cut are popular programs like education and health care, as well as funding to vital state agencies, such as the office of the attorney general.  

The Republicans are also looking to implement a flat tax on income, eliminating the state’s progressive tax system. This means that everyone will pay the same tax rate, poor or rich. This of course will greatly benefit the wealthy, but will mean a tax increase for the lower and middle classes. The exact rate hasn’t been decided yet, but in order to be effective, it will have to be higher than the current rate set for lower and middle income families. In The Arizona Republic, Republican Sen. Frank Antenori equated the current progressive tax system to “”class warfare.”” However, I invite him to make that same argument to the families that will see their taxes increase. The progressive tax system isn’t meant to punish the wealthy, but a flat income tax rate will hurt someone making $25,000 a year much more than someone making $125,000 a year. The wealthy aren’t exactly hurting and don’t need added help from the Legislature.

The flat tax was defeated in previous years because it didn’t generate enough revenue for the state. Either the rate will have to be much higher than previous proposals, or state Republicans will only make the current budget worse. If taxes are going to be raised, it better be to raise revenue for the ailing state and to save vital programs instead of just to gain an ideological victory. More money for the wealthy may give them an incentive to spend more, but not nearly enough to fix our current budget.

With the flat tax and increased budget cuts, the next few years will certainly be interesting. University students can expect to pay even more in tuition, while receiving less. The state’s public education system will become even more of a joke, and the overall effectiveness of the state government will diminish drastically. If you thought the Legislature was crazy during the last session (remember guns in bars and the birther bill?) just wait and see what the next year brings. At least there will be plenty to write about.

 

— Andrew Shepherd is a political science senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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