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It's hard to believe, a governor with a brain!

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Kendrick Wilson
By Kendrick Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday March 4, 2003

Last Thursday, Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Legislature reached a budget compromise that will balance the state's budget without raising taxes or subjecting most state agencies to further cuts.

Most importantly, the UA was saved from the ax that Republican legislators were anxious to turn into a guillotine, calling for another 5 percent budget cut. As President Pete Likins has said time and again, further budget cuts at the UA would cause permanent damage to the integrity of the institution.

This victory is due solely to the valiant fight Napolitano has put up for our university and for higher education throughout our state. She kept her campaign promise to safeguard university funding, and UA's administration, faculty, and students must never forget this bold and difficult act. This is the first time in more than a decade that anyone in state government has successfully lobbied to protect the universities' budgets with the intent of maintaining and improving higher education in Arizona.

Other important areas of state spending have been protected from further cuts as well. In fact, only the Department of Transportation will face further cuts this year, but no road construction projects will be delayed as a result. More funds from the lottery-supported Heritage Fund will go to Parks and Land in order to prevent cuts to those departments. Indeed, most of the money will come from shifting funds around, given legislators' objections to Napolitano's plan of borrowing money in anticipation of future economic recovery.

These are tough times for Arizona, as evidenced by next year's budget shortfall, which will exceed $1 billion. Arizona continues to rank near the bottom of every ranking that concerns children, health care, and quality of life in general. The result of mistakes made by past leaders is only beginning to show its repulsive face.

Napolitano has not ruled out higher or new taxes as a way of solving next year's budget crisis. She is wise to do so, and this does not deviate from her promises during the campaign. Thanks to the bad leadership of former legislators and governors, our state tax system is, as Napolitano has correctly labeled it, "swiss cheese."

Simply closing some of the tax loopholes could generate revenue to prevent further budget cuts and improve our state's ability to respond to the numerous problems we face.

During the campaign, Napolitano noted how massage parlors, dating services, and telemarketers were exempt from state sales taxes, robbing the state of vital funds which could be used for everything from education to healthcare to expanding the economy in new high-tech areas.

"I would rather be known for biotech than call centers," she acknowledged.

In a Saturday editorial, the Arizona Daily Star pointed out that our state's low rankings in every category dealing with children, health care, or quality of life are an "abyss themselves, a deep hole much more dangerous to the state's well-being than its budget problems."

We finally have a governor who realizes this fact, which has escaped the recognition of nearly every past Republican governor. Indeed, many businesses have announced plans not to relocate to Arizona because of the state's public education system and health care. A great deal of businesses have instead relocated to states that have higher taxes than Arizona, but are better when it comes to education and health care.

Miraculously enough, even some businesspeople are not willing to send their children to substandard schools in exchange for lower taxes.

In these tough times, our state finally has a governor who hopes to steer us toward a better place. Republican legislators are crying the same war chant that has for so long won elections in Mesa, Glendale, and Sun City ¸ that taxes of any kind are evil, and that trimming the fat from the state budget is the only way to go. Unfortunately, what no one ever told the residents of Mesa, Glendale, and Sun City is that the fat has already been trimmed by legislatures of years past. The proposed cuts of today would run deep into the bone. Continuing down the same path of lower budgets and lower quality of life could actually drive more businesses away from Arizona.

Our problems are worse than ever in Arizona, but our leadership is better than ever. We all must rally around our governor who has fought so hard and will continue to fight for us.

In Arizona, loyalty to education is hard to come by.


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