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Monday, May 24, 2010

Something strange happened in Arizona last week

Politics in Arizona has always been relatively easy to understand. It's conservative with a slight libertarian bent but with enough Democratic enclaves to hold 5 out of 8 seats in the House. It's forced John McCain to move far to the right to hold off a primary challenge from the even further right J.D. Hayworth.

Arizona like most states is suffering from a huge deficit due to the slumping economy and were facing huge cuts to education and to health insurance for children from low income households. On the ballot last week was a proposal to increase the state sales tax by one percent to offset some of the cuts. In a surprise considering the current anti-tax sentiment the measure won by a 64-36% margin which means a significant number of Republicans voted for the increase. In even more conservative Kansas the same measure was approved.

In California's dysfunctional political system any tax increases need a two thirds majority to pass so the Republican minority has managed to block any chance of increasing revenues despite the fact that a plethora of spending initiatives over the years have been approved by a simple majority of voters in a variety of propositions.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed $8.4 billion cuts in the budget, all of which are directed at schools and lower income families. Among the cuts are the complete elimination of a home nursing care program and the decimation of health insurance for low income children. Cuts in education will severely damage public schools. Over 20,000 teachers have already been laid off with more to come.

Not on the table are rescinding a sales tax exemption for yachts, charging oil companies an extraction fee (the only state in the Union to grant this exemption) and a $1.5 billion tax credit to the ten largest California corporations.

There is one word for this - insanity.

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