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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: more moderate Brewer faces immoderate legislature

    Who’d have thought Jan Brewer was a Daily Wildcat reader?

    In December 2008, the Daily Wildcat opinions board called for the incoming Republican governor to govern as a moderate, in keeping with the fact that she was appointed to replace Democrat Janet Napolitano, not elected in her own right. While we couldn’t honestly expect her not to govern following her own principles, we hoped she would refrain from governing as if she had been given a mandate by voters to govern as a hard-right conservative.

    Judging from her behavior lately, she decided to listen to us. Who could have imagined the old Brewer calling for a tax increase, as the new Brewer did March 4? She’s not trying to force it on a tax-weary (and tax-wary) electorate, either; she’s called for a special election to allow the voters to decide on whether a hike is necessary.

    So what’s the problem? Republican lawmakers insist -ÿunderstandably – that they weren’t elected to raise taxes, even if Arizona is suffering from a $3 billion deficit – the country’s second worst, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. They found common ground here with Democratic legislators in their concern about the effect an increased sales tax might have on poor families.

    But a tax hike is exactly one of those difficult choices that leaders occasionally have to make in times of crisis. Declaring it off the table simply because Republicans “”don’t raise taxes”” is simply unreasonable. As State Senator Russell Pearce put it, speaking to the Arizona Daily Star, “”We’re in tough times. Tough decisions have to be made.””

    Pearce wasn’t talking about a tax hike, of course. He was talking about Pima County losing $3.8 million in state funding, money that was used to provide care for uninsured patients at Kino Hospital. Why was that decision so much easier to make than a tax hike?

    Arizona lawmakers’ reaction to another recent budget development was even more telling.

    Last week it was announced that the Arizona State Legislature might have to reverse its decision to slash higher education funding due to stipulations from the federal government. The reason? The federal stimulus package, which stipulates approximately $800 million for education. The catch is that, by cutting education funding below its most recent level, the state government would forfeit its share of the stimulus package.

    Naturally, state legislators who regard higher education as an insufferable burden to taxpayers are furious. Pearce told the Arizona Republic he would like Brewer to request a federal waiver, so that the state could use the money without regard to federal spending guidelines. Then the money would go to plugging this year’s budget hole, and the higher education cuts would stand.

    The governor hasn’t said whether she thinks this is a good idea. But according to her spokesman, Brewer regards the stimulus package as “”an opportunity to restore some needed university funding.”” And back on March 18, she declared herself that “”We’re not going to let our education system fail, if I have any say on it.””

    Too many lawmakers seem to believe that this economic crisis is nothing we can’t fix by slicing the budget to shreds and decimating one program after another. As Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullman put it March 5, conceding that a tax hike might be inevitable, “”You get to a point there’s nothing left to cut unless you want to start shutting down schools every other day or something.”” We certainly hope that’s not on the table.

    We urge the governor to stand firmly against any attempt to keep stimulus funds from going to higher education. That is what they were intended for. They were not meant to help the Arizona state government dig itself out of a hole it dug itself.

    Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions staff and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Laura Donovan, Taylor Kessinger, Heather Price-Wright and Nickolas Seibel.

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