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Cook helps kill two tax bills
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PHOENIX — A lone Republican lawmaker who represents Pinal County united with House Democrats on Monday to quash at least part of a proposal for sharp cuts in taxes for the most wealthy.

Rep. David Cook of Globe said he is not buying the arguments by Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP leaders that permanently cutting $1.9 billion in income taxes would lead to future economic growth. He said that was borne out by the collapse of revenue in Kansas following a sharp cut in that state’s income taxes in 2012.

House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, responded, in essence, that we’re not in Kansas.

He said the revenue cuts in Kansas were sharper. Then there’s the fact that Arizona’s economy is growing and people and businesses continue to move here.

“We have excess revenues, not declines,’’ Toma said. And while he was unable to cite any projections of how that would work, the majority leader insisted it will happen.

“Historically, that’s been proven in other cases,’’ Toma said.

Cook, however, was unwilling to buy that assumption on faith. He said it is wrong to make such a major change in tax policy without looking closer at the impact — and in a proposal that never got a public hearing.

“Doesn’t that bother you?’’ he asked.

“Lots of things bother me,’’ Toma responded. “Cutting taxes does not bother me in the least.’’

Cook was angry that leadership forced a decision on the budget when they knew they lacked the votes, which came as his ranch near Globe was ordered evacuated because of a wildfire.

Cook has said he will support some form of tax cuts. But not this package.

One part would create a single 2.5% income tax rate. That compares with the current four tiers, which run from 2.59% on taxable income up to $53,000 for married couples, with a top rate of 4.5% on amounts above $318,000.

The other would impose an absolute cap of 4.5% on the total income taxes of any individual. As that includes the voter-approved 3.5% surcharge on incomes above $500,000 for couples, it would effectively mean a 1% tax on all other earnings.

Without those two changes, the top tax rate on the most wealthy is 8% — the current 4.5% top bracket plus the 3.5% surcharge.

Toma said it makes sense to focus tax relief on those at the top of the income scale.

“They’re the ones that make the jobs and create the economic conditions that benefit the entire state,’’ he said. That drew a sharp retort from House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen.

“The reality is, without these working-class people there wouldn’t be jobs, there wouldn’t be an economy, there wouldn’t be people making sure that people in Arizona have the ability to stand up and to be able to do the things that they want to do here in Arizona,’’ he said.

The failure of the House to get the requisite 31 votes leaves not just the tax cut but the entire $12.8 billion budget in limbo. So House GOP leaders chose to shut down until Thursday, giving them a chance to reassess the package to see how it might be possible to gain the majority in the 60-member chamber.

But time is running out: The state needs a new budget adopted when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said the next step is to reach out to Cook and find out exactly what he needs to vote for the package. But he also said that Cook needs to recognize that if the plan fails, he loses things that he wants, ranging from $200 million to find new sources of water to $800 million in debt relief.

It’s even more complex than that.

House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, says anything that either adds to spending or trims the tax relief has the potential of losing other GOP votes. Put simply, he said, it’s like squeezing a balloon: Compress at one end and “it can bend out of shape on the other side.’’

Some of that already is happening.

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, who supports the $1.9 billion in tax cuts, thinks there are things in the package that are too generous. He specifically wants to quash the proposed increase in unemployment benefits.

Arizona law entitles those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own to collect up to 50% of what they were earning. But state law caps that weekly payment at $240, the second lowest in the nation; only Mississippi pays less.

The package would take that figure to $320 a week. That, said Hoffman, is not acceptable.

“Taxing small business to pay potential employees more money to not work is just bad policy, plain and simple,’’ he said.

“We don’t need more welfare,’’ Hoffman said. “We need more people out there pursuing jobs that are out there in the marketplace right now.’’

But Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said Hoffman can’t get what he wants. She said the benefits increase is part of the deal negotiated not just with Senate Republicans but also with Ducey.

Bowers said the same is true of the entire budget package: It has to be accepted by a majority of the House, the Senate and the governor.

Ducey for the time being is sticking with his bid for the flat tax and the cap on taxes on the wealthy.

“It’s important to protect Arizona’s job creators from a tax increase,’’ said press aide C.J. Karamargin. “We believe our proposal is the sound one, the best one, the one that makes the most sense.’’

Meanwhile the Senate, which also comes back Thursday after a two-week recess, is having its own problems lining up the necessary votes among the 16 Republicans there.

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, continues to hold out for an agreement that the tax-cut package won’t harm cities. That’s because they get 15% of what the state collects in income taxes, part of a 1972 deal where local communities gave up the right to levy their own income and excise taxes.

GOP leaders did agree to boost that to 17%. But city officials say that still leaves them short of where they are now.

And Boyer remains concerned that lawmakers could come back at some future date and trim the cities’ share.

He has reason to be suspicious.

Boyer pointed to a 2005 deal between Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Republican-controlled legislature: She would support their demand for a 10% cut in income taxes in exchange for state funding of full-day kindergarten.

Only thing is, when the recession hit, the GOP lawmakers took the school funding away. But Boyer noted that the tax cut remains in place. And he doesn’t want a repeat when it comes to city aid.

“There’s nothing to prevent them next year if the economy crashes to say, ‘Sorry, we don’t have the money, we’re going to go right back to 15%,’” he said.

Boyer also has some spending priorities.

He wants additional cash in the “new economy initiative’’ designed to help universities train workers for high-tech and high-demand jobs. Boyer said the plan to grow Arizona’s economy through things like tax cuts will work only if the state has the workforce to fill those high-paying jobs.


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Growing central Arizona wildfires prompt new evacuation orders
  • Updated

SUPERIOR — A fast-moving wildfire south of Superior had burned an estimated 56,676 acres as of Monday afternoon, authorities said. The fire was 0% contained.

Firefighters are working to protect the community of Top-of-the-World on the Pinal-Gila County line and are trying to keep the fire south of U.S. 60. The Tonto National Forest has described the blaze, dubbed the Telegraph Fire, as “fast moving and dynamic.”

Superior Mayor Mila Besich reported via her Facebook page that no structures had burned. She also stated that Boyce Thompson Arboretum has voluntarily decided to evacuate to allow fire crews to work in that area. The Cobre Valley Hospital is expected to remain open, she stated in her post.

The fire is expected to continue to spread to the east due to a large amount of dry grass and brush in the area from the drought and the wind, according to officials. Firefighters are hoping to guide the fire toward the scar from the 2017 Pinal Fire.

Meanwhile, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office issued an immediate evacuation order for part of Miami because of another fire. The order specifically applies to those who reside west of the town limits, south of U.S. 60 from Dairy Canyon to Mackey Camp.

Two local schools are open as shelters.

USFS  

The Telegraph Fire burns close to U.S. 60 near Superior.

Evacuations were ordered Sunday for the Top-of-The-World area. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office also evacuated the Oak Flats campground.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

The human-caused blaze has forced closures of stretches of State Route 177, State Route 77, U.S. 70 and U.S. 60.

More than 200 firefighters have been battling the fire since it broke out Friday. It has so far burned mostly shrub and grass but continues to threaten as many as 150 residents, Tonto National Forest spokesman John Scaggs said Sunday.

The largest type of federal incident management team has assumed control of the operation.

InciWeb 

The Mescal Fire burns south of Globe Sunday, June 6.

Meanwhile, air tankers and helicopters were assisting more than 500 firefighters who continued to work the Mescal Fire about 12 miles southeast of Globe. It had grown to more than 77 square miles and had mostly burned desert brush, oak and grass.

Some neighborhoods in Globe and Miami have been evacuated along with the community of Coyote Flats.

Estimated containment shrank from 5% Saturday to only 2% by Sunday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Gila District Office.

The cause of that fire, which started May 31, is under investigation.

———


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UA softball Coach Mike Candrea announces retirement
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TUCSON — Mike Candrea is retiring after winning eight national championships and amassing more wins than any coach in college softball history during 36 years at Arizona.

“It has been an honor to represent the University of Arizona for 36 years,” Candrea said in a statement Monday. “I am indebted to every player, coach and member of my support staff that has made the Arizona softball experience one that I will cherish forever.

“When I arrived in 1985, I wanted to build a culture of excellence and compete consistently at the highest levels of Division 1 softball. Most of all, our goal was to prepare our student-athletes for life after softball and build relationships that would last a lifetime.”

Candrea won 1,674 games — fourth-most in any sport — during a career that spanned four decades, leading the Wildcats to 24 Women’s College World Series appearances and 19 conference championships. He coached 50 All-Americans at Arizona and won gold and silver medals with Team USA.

Arizona went 41-15 this season and was knocked out of the College World Series with losses to Florida State and Alabama.

Candrea, 65, is a former Central Arizona College coach. After taking the Arizona job, he commuted from the Casa Grande area for many years before moving to Tucson.

Assistant Coach Caitlin Lowe has been named as Candrea’s replacement.

“Coach Candrea has built a culture of excellence that puts his players at the forefront,” said Lowe. “He has shown us all what it looks like to fiercely pursue our passion. He has led this team with integrity, class and the upmost humility.”

Lowe learned under Coach Candrea as a player both at Arizona and the U.S. Olympic Team and then for the last decade on his staff.

“Caitlin Lowe has been a superstar her entire life,” said Candrea. “She is bright, a good communicator, understands what it takes having been there as an athlete, and the players love her. Without a doubt, Caitlin is the best person to continue the Arizona legacy into the future. She will be a superstar for many years to come.”

Lowe was an outstanding player at the sport’s highest levels, succeeding collegiately at Arizona, professionally with the USSSA Pride and internationally with Team USA before returning her to her alma mater to join Candrea’s staff for the 2013 team. Lowe served as the program’s director of operations in 2013 and then the volunteer assistant coach in 2014 before joining the coaching staff full time in 2015. She has served as the team’s associate head coach for the last four seasons and will now take over as head coach for the 2022 season.

With the Hall of Famer’s official retirement as head coach of Arizona Softball on Monday, the all-time winningest coach in the history of the sport begins to pen a new set of chapters of his story.

“Over his four decades as the head coach of Arizona Softball, Mike Candrea established himself as one of the most iconic coaches, of any sport, in college athletics history,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Dave Heeke. “While his impact on the game is widely recognized, his legacy is in the lives of the thousands of Wildcats who he coached. Mike’s career embodied true excellence in all facets of leading a softball program — winning on the field, student-athlete success in the classroom and developing them for life after graduation.”

Heeke said Candrea established a championship culture within Arizona Athletics that permeates throughout the department, and represented “our state with honor and distinction.”

Heeke said Candrea became the face of the sport. He became a figure in the lives of the many young women he coached. He became an idol for new generations of coaches. You can see all of that and more in the tributes filling social media after the Wildcats’ final game of 2021.

“Over the past 36 years, Coach Mike Candrea has built Arizona Softball into one of the premier programs in the country,” said University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. “His legacy is unmatched: 8 national titles, 1600+ wins, and – more importantly – the countless students who have told me their lives are better because he was their coach and mentor. As he retires, I know the impact of his example and leadership at the University of Arizona will continue for new generations of Wildcats. Truly an all-time great.

While the iconic coach may be retiring from his official duties, he will continue to be a part of the Arizona Athletics family in an advisory role as well as assisting with coaching development for the athletic department.

Arizona Athletics will host a farewell press conference for Candrea on Tuesday at McKale Center.

Hall of Fame career

  • NCAA softball leader in wins (1,674)
  • On April 19, 2019, became the fastest coach in NCAA history, any division, any sport, to accumulate 1,600 wins.
  • Fifth-most Division I victories of any coach in any sport.
  • Has led Arizona to eight national championships, more than any coach in NCAA softball history.
  • Arizona has made 24 trips to the Women’s College World Series in his tenure, missing just eight times in the last 32 years.
  • Under Candrea, Arizona has a spectacular postseason record of 178-65. The Wildcats have played in an NCAA-record 34 consecutive postseasons.
  • Fifty-three All-Americans with a staggering 108 total citations have played in the program since Candrea took over.

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CG attorney pens book on children with complex medical conditions

CASA GRANDE — Ann Schrooten understands the heartbreak, hope and difficulties parents of children with complex medical issues can face. And as a parent of a child who was born with severe disabilities, she also understands the frustration parents can experience when interacting with the medical professionals tasked with caring for their children.

With her new book, “Shared Struggles,” Schrooten, an estate planning attorney at Fitzgibbons Law Offices, and co-author Dr. Barry Markovitz, hope to provide readers with a helpful glimpse into what parents and physicians each feel and think in various situations in hopes that it will lead to better communication.

“There are more than three million children in the U.S. with complex medical conditions, so that’s a lot of parent-physician interactions” Schrooten said. “I hope this book opens the eyes of both the parents and the physicians so that they better understand what each other is thinking and feeling.”

The book includes a collection of 46 true stories told by physicians and parents.

Parents tell about interactions with the medical community that had a significant impact on them and their child. Physicians tell of interactions with parents and families that served as learning moments.

Following each story, Schrooten includes a commentary from a parent’s perspective and Markovitz provides one from a physician’s point of view.

“The reader gets an idea of how parents feel in each story and how physicians feel,” she said. “Storytelling is a great way to teach about how others might be approaching the same situation.”

Stories are grouped into four different categories: hope, compassion, communication and trust.

She and Markovitz worked for years to collect the stories.

“The stories can be tough to read,” she said. “It’s a tough life for parents with children with complex medical conditions and in some of the stories, kids die.”

But she said the information in the book is timely as thanks to medical advances, the number of children surviving rare and life-threatening illnesses is growing.

“There can sometimes be a feeling of us-versus-them when it comes to patient-parent-physician interactions,” she said. “By giving a voice to both parents and physicians, and by listening and learning from their stories, the goal is to create a bridge to better understanding that can improve communication, minimize conflicts and foster trust and compassion among physicians, patients and families.”

Schrooten and her husband, Mark, have four children. One of their sons, Jack, was born with a rare congenital muscular dystrophy, requiring a ventilator to help him breathe.

“He was non-verbal, non-mobile and required round-the-clock care,” Schrooten said. “Despite his challenges, Jack woke up every morning with a smile on his face and eyes that sparkled with the anticipation of a new day.”

Jack died on Jan. 5, 2014, at the age of 15.

Markovitz was Jack’s intensive care physician when he was hospitalized as a baby.

Over the years, Markovitz and Schrooten stayed in touch.

“He gave me his email address in 1999, when that was unheard of,” Schrooten said. “We stayed in touch over the course of Jack’s life and after Jack died, we decided to write this book together.”

The two spent years collecting stories and editing the book. The search for a publisher took more than a year.

“We finally found a publisher and submitted the book in 2020,” Schrooten said.

“Shared Struggles” is available on Amazon.

Schrooten hopes it becomes a resource for physicians and medical professionals as well as families of children with complex medical issues.

“By giving a voice to both parents and physicians, the goal is to create a bridge to better understanding that can improve communication, minimize conflicts and foster trust and compassion among physicians, patients and families,” she said.


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