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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Voters: There’s more than just the border

It seems all our state’s elected leaders care to talk about these days is border security. And why not? After signing S.B. 1070, Gov. Jan Brewer’s popularity skyrocketed and populist appeals for more border security do wonders for poll numbers. However, Arizona voters must not let themselves be distracted. We need to remember that the state is currently in a crisis, one that our leaders have failed to do anything about.

According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona is now the second poorest state in the country, with one in five people living in poverty. That’s roughly 50 percent higher than the national average; only Mississippi is in worse shape. To put it into perspective, that’s a 7 percent rise from the 2007 rate of 14.3 percent.  

Children and families with single mothers are even worse off, with poverty rates of 35 percent and 45 percent, respectively.  Arizona’s unemployment rate currently stands at a depressing 9.7 percent, having increased slightly from July. While the rise in poverty and high unemployment can mostly be attributed to the financial crisis and collapse of the housing bubble and not the actions of state leaders, it’s necessary for voters to remember those leaders haven’t done much to combat it.

Instead, over the past year, the legislature has been on a campaign to do nothing but cut spending. The state currently faces a huge deficit and something needs to be done, but simply slashing the budget is no way to govern. This year, the legislature made massive cuts to education spending on all fronts, including the university system and all-day kindergarten. While the state’s education system was temporarily aided by the passage of Proposition 100 earlier this year, spending per student is still among the lowest in the nation.  

How can the legislature expect to attract jobs and fix the unemployment rate if Arizona’s children are receiving such a poor education? What company is going to want to relocate to Arizona if it knows the people will be less skilled than elsewhere in the country? How can people move themselves out of poverty without the skills to go to college, start a business or find a salaried position? It’s true that more spending doesn’t guarantee smarter kids or higher test scores, but cutting the education system to its bare bones means fewer teachers, large class sizes and fewer resources for students to succeed.

The legislature’s answer to the unemployment problem is tax cuts for businesses. In theory, these incentives should draw businesses to the state for its low taxes and friendly business climate. However, before the tax cuts, the business tax rates in Arizona were already some of the lowest in the nation. If low taxes didn’t draw in big business before, why would they now? Creating financial incentives for businesses to move to Arizona is a good start, but it isn’t the only answer.  

It seems the legislature’s only solution to any problem our state faces — besides the border, of course –– is tax cuts or spending cuts. Lawmakers fail to realize that successful businesses look at more than just a tax rate when deciding where to locate.

Over the past few years, state leaders have failed to look outside their narrow, ideologically driven worldview. They have made massive cuts to education, health care for children and the elderly, and have done nothing but shake their fists at anything they conceive as “”big government.””

If the people of Arizona truly want to see a change from the state’s current mismanagement, they must look past all the recent noise being made about immigration and border security. While it is a relevant issue, it’s important to remember the issues that are most vital to us as a whole: education, job creation and reducing the poverty rate.

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

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