Staff Opinion: Hull, state must raise income-tax to save trauma care
Thursday October 18, 2001
We rely on our state government to provide basic public services - an education system for our youth, a prison system to house our criminals, and most importantly, hospitals to treat our injured and dying. To quote Sue Gerard, the chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee, "This is as basic as public service comes."
The current problem with the state's medical service is most intense in Tucson. Because of shortfalls in the budget of TMC and UMC, Tucson may soon be faced with a situation where it does not have a level one trauma center. City, county and state officials have been scrambling for weeks to find funding to either keep TMC open or provide enough money to UMC to keep its trauma center open. Both hospitals have reported that they do not have the resources to maintain their level one trauma centers.
Speculation as to where the funding could possibly come from has been fruitless. All interested parties believe that the special legislative session on Nov. 13 carries the most hope for a solution. The most recent suggestion to alleviate Tucson's problem has come from Gerard.
Gerard plans to ask the state for an emergency tax to bail out Tucson's trauma centers. The proposed tax would be a 9-cent-a-line surcharge on telephone service plus a sales tax increase of two-tenths of a cent on every dollar. And more immediately, Gerard plans to tap $25 million tobacco tax fund to a bail out TMC and UMC.
The telecommunications tax and the sales tax are just ways to spread out a tax to the middle and lower classes of the state so that they aren't as easily noticed. In reality, there is little difference between a sales tax and a telecommunications tax, in the end everyone in the state will be taxed equally. However, that isn't fair, because the people of this state aren't equally wealthy.
Gerard's plan is another attempt by Arizona's conservative state government to limit the effects of tax hikes to the upper classes. The only fair way to raise taxes is to raise income taxes. Those who benefit the most from this state are responsible for the quality of public service.
Gov. Jane Dee Hull seems to be on the chilly side of lukewarm on this subject. In a statement made concerning the trauma center crisis in Tucson she said, "I'm probably not as sympathetic to that one as I could be." The citizens of this state may question what Gov. Hull is sympathetic to, if she is not sympathetic to the quality of care given to those on the brink of death.
Hull explained her tepid stance on the subject by saying "The minute Tucson is bailed out for one, Phoenix would be bailed out for three." This may be true, but it is insufficient as a reason to leave the sick and dying of Tucson without a place to go. If Phoenix also needs more money for trauma centers, then they should get it too, but the situation in Tucson is more severe because very soon we may not have any.
Gov. Hull needs to find some compassion for this situation, and our lawmakers must find a fair way to raise taxes to bail out Tucson's trauma centers. Excuses will not be acceptable - lives are at stake.