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Take federal funds and leave our tax rates alone

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

When you’re sinking like a stone and someone tosses you a life preserver, do you reject that gift on general principle?

Of course you don’t, and Gov. Jan Brewer is right to take federal stimulus money.

About $354 million from the feds likely will go to beef up Arizona’s Health Care Cost Containment System for low-income families, and another $25 million has been accepted for child care subsidies, a fund that has just been slashed radically.

Despite some grumbling among a few legislators, Arizona’s leaders need to use the rest of the $1.4 billion in federal money, too, as designated.

“This is not federal interference,” U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva said at a news conference Friday. “This is an intervention.

“Spending is the key to economic recovery. Tax cuts – in these economic times when there is no surplus – are counterproductive.”

Amen. Legislators need to keep their hands off our tax rates right now. The leaders are dead wrong to seek a permanent repeal of a state property tax that was suspended for three years.

The tax is to kick in this year, bringing $250 million to our state.

The push to repeal it indicates that state leaders care less about the downtrodden than about catering to business and wealthy people.

That indication is echoed loudly in a proposal by Ways and Means Chairman Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, to reduce the corporate income tax rate, raise the business equipment tax exemption to $10 million from $65,013, and cut income taxes on capital gains for corporations and individuals.

With a $3 billion budget deficit looming for the fiscal year starting July 1, these are among the more asinine ideas heard in some time.

State programs already have taken severe cuts, particularly in the Department of Economic Security.

There, Child Protective Services investigators, foster family subsidies and child care all were slashed. The developmentally disabled were hit especially hard, prompting a lawsuit to be filed Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court.

By shutting down tax revenue streams even further, legislators would only spur more hemorrhaging of funds needed for social services.

Instead, the Republicans should drop their partisan approach and heed some of the creative savings ideas proposed by legislative Democrats.

For example, sell some future lottery revenue in exchange for upfront payments. Transfer money from agencies’ special-purpose funds. Delay some university funding into next fiscal year.

And instead of cutting tax rates, lawmakers could suspend individual and corporate income tax credits.

In hard times, more downtrodden Arizonans need help than ever. This is the wrong time to cut services – and most assuredly not the time to cut taxes.

Cutting tax revenues and services simultaneously makes no sense whatsoever in our deficit-wracked state.

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