Monday, September 21, 2009

In case you missed it: Pragmatic leaders needed for state

Run in Saturday's AZ Republic:

Pragmatic leaders needed for state
By Sen. Ken Cheuvront - Sept. 19, 2009
Special for the Republic

Arizona is going through one of the most difficult economic periods in our history. Yet, during this time of financial crisis, our current Republican governor and legislative leaders have demonstrated a complete inability to lead. Although two Republican-only budgets were passed this year, the current budget remains $1 billion in the red with future billion-dollar deficits looming in years to come.

A state in this desperate financial condition today needs courageous leadership with a vision for tomorrow. Facing these massive deficits, people should rightfully expect their elected leaders to roll up their sleeves and confront the issues directly. Instead, legislative Republicans have spent their time attempting to lay blame for our current fiscal crisis on the policies of former Gov. Napolitano. They do this, even though they have controlled both the House and the Senate for almost all of the past 44 years.

So what were the Republican priorities in their budget? To close a $3 billion deficit the majority party slashed public education and services for working families, cut taxes for big business and special interest and expanded private-school tax credits that drain money from the state general fund to pay for children of wealthy parents to attend private school.

While they slashed everyone else's budgets, they protected their own budgets from being cut. No cuts were made to the House, Senate, Secretary of State, Governor or Treasurer's offices (all Republican elected officials), but major cuts were made to Attorney General Goddard's (Democrat) office.

These are not the priorities of mainstream Arizonans. Legislative Democrats acknowledge that reduced spending is required, but we believe that cuts should be targeted and not cause long-term damage to our state. Enhancing revenue should be a priority of our state, but Democrats do not support a sales-tax increase that will be mainly used to subsidize $650 million in tax giveaways to large corporations and utilities. Permanently cutting state revenue when you already have a massive deficit is irresponsible and will only lead to future deficits that require even more cuts in the future to vital services.

The time is now for Arizona voters to establish their priorities. Do they want tax giveaways to corporations, or do they want to prioritize public education? If it is the former, then Arizona will continue down the current ideological path that will produce a much smaller government but also will lead to fewer teachers, overcrowded classrooms and an undereducated future workforce.

If voters want to prioritize education and financial stability, then the time has come to change who controls the Arizona House and Senate. We need to elect moderate Democrats and Republicans who share the values and priorities of most Arizonans, rather than the current ultra-conservative Legislature that believes a scorched-earth policy is the best way to get our economy moving.

To stimulate the economy, we need to make sure we have a well-educated workforce that has the tools to succeed. Cutting resources to our public universities, high schools and elementary schools is not a stimulus span that will give us well-paying jobs in the future. It is time to kick out the dead wood and elect a new breed of pragmatic, forward-thinking individuals. We need courageous leadership with a vision.

Sen. Ken Cheuvront is a Democrat from District 15 in Phoenix. He can be reached at 602-926-5325 or via e-mail at kcheuvront@azleg.gov.

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