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One of my Representatives in the State Legislature is Steve Farley. He’s back in the Capitol and back in the saddle, doing the Lone Ranger thing for the Progressives of LD 28 and all of Arizona.

That also means that the Farley Report is back. If you haven’t signed up yet, I strongly urge you to subscribe now. Your political intelligence quotient will rise 50 points immediately.

Just in case you want a taste before you drink from Farley’s fire hose of parliamentary perspicacity, here’s the latest issue after the flip…


Howdy, Friends o’ Farley…

Welcome to the first weekly edition
of the Farley Report for 2008! I’ve got so much to share with you, I’ll
have to spread it out over the next few weeks–by that time, I’ll have
even more to share. Now that we are once again in official session, the
issues come at us fast & furious. I’ll try to give you the
highlights of what’s brewing in the first few days, without taxing your
patience.

Speaking of taxing, the Republican majority has
already announced that their first priority this year is to enact a
permanent repeal of the state’s county equalization property tax rate
(a key funding source for education) which was temporarily suspended a
couple of years ago when we had a billion-dollar surplus. Instead of
socking that surplus away for leaner times, the Legislature at the time
decided to give it away, mostly to the state’s wealthiest taxpayers.
This year, we’re facing a budget deficit up near a billion dollars, but
the House leadership seems stuck in tax giveaway mode. When we are
facing cuts across the board in vital public programs, it’s hard to
escape the word "irresponsible" when you’re trying to describe any call
for further tax giveaways.

How much will most Arizonans gain if
these backward-thinking legislators get their way? Senator Jorge Luis
Garcia (D-Tucson) pointed out in a press release this week that the
average annual savings represented by the repeal of this tax amounts to
around $5.85 per home. If we take that princely sum back for ourselves,
we will be taking it from our schools, which desperately need that
collective $250 million per year to educate our children–the future of
our state, and the folks who will drive our economy to new heights down
the line.

Some of my colleagues on the far right seem positively
giddy when they consider all the cuts they have in mind for state
government during these lean times. It would seem that they see this as
an opportunity to carry out libertarian anarchist Grover Norquist’s
famous exhortation to "shrink government to the size where it can be
drowned in a bathtub." The hurt their proposed cuts will cause to our
citizens and our economy seem not to matter to some of these folks.

Take
Rep. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) and Sen. Bob Burns (R-Glendale). They
chair the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and held a series
of joint hearings last week to examine possible budget cuts. Prior to
those meetings, they issued a list of their proposals. These included:

–>
$91,000,000 lump sum reduction for the Department of Corrections. They
did not say how many prisoners they would be releasing to get to that
figure.
–> $13,530,000 rollback of money to replace federal cuts that would mean slashing child protection services in the state.
–> The elimination of adult dental services for the developmentally disabled.
–> Kicking thousands of kids in poverty and pregnant women off KidsCare health insurance.
–>
Raiding all Science Foundation Arizona funds all the way back to Fiscal
Year 2007 and giving up $100 million  in private match funding in the
process.
–> Killing HealthCare Group and leaving 25,000 small
business owners & employees without health insurance by eliminating
the $8 million subsidy approved last year.
–> Chopping funding
for vaccines, Alzheimer’s research, youth meth prevention, senior food
programs, and community health centers.

And there’s so much more
to resist. Rep John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) called for slashing all
need-based financial aid to the state’s universities as a way to pay
for the $44 million cuts for the U of A and $50 million cuts for ASU.
Presumably, college degrees would only be available for those who can
afford it–that’s not the American dream as I understand it.

Luckily,
we have the best Governor in the country on our side. She delivered her
State of the State address to the joint legislature yesterday, and her
vision was so much more expansive and visionary. As she expressed it,
"This is a powerful narrative, one of progress, action, and success. It
is not one we can allow to be cut short because of a temporary economic
condition."

She called for building our future with key new
initiatives, while balancing the budget with a combination of spending
cuts, bonding school construction, and money from the rainy day fund.
Among the highlights for me were:

–> A bold call for Tucson
to Phoenix passenger rail as part of a multimodal statewide
transportation plan to be voted in on 2008 or 2009. This call got the
largest ovation all day!

–> A new Centennial Scholars
program starting with today’s 8th-graders, whereby any student who
maintains a B-average through high school will be able to attend any of
the state’s community colleges and universities for free.

–> Comprehensive renewable energy, energy efficiency,  and carbon emissions reduction legislation.

–> Dramatic expansion in affordable health care coverage in a number of different ways.

The
latter was derided by Speaker Jim Weiers (R-Phoenix) as "utopian" in
the Republican Response. This from a man who currently receives a
utopian health insurance plan paid for by the taxpayers. Presumably,
only legislators deserve decent, affordable, state-subsidized health
insurance.

Speaking of health care, the future of HealthCare
Group continues to be a big point of debate in the body, with Rep. Kirk
Adams pushing for its conversion into a risk pool. His efforts received
a severe blow today when the fairly conservative National Federation of
Business/Arizona released its member poll that showed a majority of its
members oppose such a move, and a large chunk of them would like to
repeal the six-month "bare period" that makes new enrollees go without
any insurance before coverage kicks in. I will let you know more about
HCG developments as they happen.

I’m also involved on a number
of other policy fronts right now, and will talk about them in more
detail in the upcoming weeks. Some of them are:

–> Efforts
by the Department of Administration and the Governor to extend domestic
partnership benefits to all state employees.
–> The fight to
preserve State Shared Revenues and HURF gas tax allocations for
Southern Arizona cities, counties, and towns.
–> Revitalization
of Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District via my shuttle diplomacy among
various branches of state and local government.
–> Monitoring
the deal that will allow Westcor to develop a plan for 12,000 acres of
State Trust Lands on Tucson’s Southeast side to make sure we get smart
growth–not simply more sprawl–through the preservation of Fantasy
Island, the banning of residential development southeast of
Davis-Monthan, the funding of commuter rail and other alternative
transit modes by future developers, water conservation, and other
progressive planning tools.
–> Introducing a new crop of important bills which I will share with you in detail soon.

And
finally this week, I receive the Legislator of the Year award tomorrow
morning from the Arizona Society of Practicing Accountants for the work
I did to pass the IRS Tax Conformity Bill last session and getting it
through as the first bill signed by the Governor in 2007, allowing the
state’s taxpayers to get the federal tax breaks they were entitled to
and allowing CPAs to do their jobs on time.

That’s quite enough
for one email! There’s lots more next week. Meanwhile, keep active, and
let all your elected officials know that you’re watching carefully this
year and their actions will determine your vote in November. Thanks for
allowing me to serve you.

Steve Farley
Arizona State Representative, District 28
Ranking Member, Ways & Means Committee
Ranking Member, Government Committee
Member, Transportation Committee
Capitol office: 602-926-3022
Tucson office: 520-398-6000
Official email: sfarley@azleg.gov
Paid for by  Friends O’Farley, Richard Elias, Chair

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