Census data released last week show that Arizona is in worse shape than ever.
The state’s 9.7 percent jobless rate is the highest in nearly three decades, and Arizona now has the second highest poverty rate — 21.2 percent — in the nation. That means nearly 1.4 million Arizonans — more than one out of every five — live in households earning less than the federal poverty level. Only Mississippi has a worse rate.
Add to that the state’s budget woes, foreclosure crisis and problems with illegal immigration, and Arizonans have more than enough reasons to vote in the Nov. 2 general election.
Around the nation, voters are expressing dissatisfaction with government this election season.
A new poll from the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University shows Arizonans are also in an unforgiving mood: Two-thirds of voters — 68 percent — disapprove of the way the Arizona Legislature is handling the state budget and taxes. And, the institute noted, that includes a majority of Republicans (61 percent) who disapprove of the GOP-dominated Legislature, which made huge cuts in programs.
The budget will continue to be problematic as our increasing number of poor residents seek help from state-funded programs at a time when the state dollars aren’t there. According to a recent report by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Arizona could be in the red by as much as $1 billion.
Never has there been a more critical need for effective leadership at the state Capitol, in the governor’s tower, at state agencies, and on city councils and school boards.
We need elected leaders who can set aside partisan politics to make tough fiscal decisions while also looking out for the needs of our most vulnerable residents — the old, the young, the sick, the disabled.
We need leaders who have viable ideas on how to stimulate the economy, put people back to work, and reduce the gap between our state’s richest and poorest citizens.
We need leaders who want to work toward real solutions in securing Arizona’s border with Mexico, and not just those who use rhetoric about illegal immigration to snag a vote.
So study up on the candidates. Scrutinize where they stand on issues. And most importantly, cast an informed ballot on Nov. 2.
To help you learn more about those seeking office, the Tribune begins an ongoing series of profiles about the candidates and issues today on Page 4. In a future edition, we will endorse candidates and ballot measures. You can also find more election news on our politics page — AZ Unplugged — at evtrib.com.