On Thursday, Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited Tucson and Phoenix, announcing over $75.2 million in grant awards for communities throughout the state.
“[These are] improvements that are going to make for better travel and better safety here in Tucson and in Phoenix,” said Buttigieg.
These Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants were awarded to Navajo County, Phoenix, Tucson, and the Colorado Indian River Tribes.
Over $2.2 billion from 166 RAISE Grants were distributed throughout the country. Arizona communities received five different grants: $261,000 to Navajo County to improve 16 miles of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure; $25 million to Phoenix to construct a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Rio Salado River; $25 million to Tucson to renovate an old bridge; and nearly $25 million to the Colorado Indian River Tribes to reconstruct 10 miles of road.
The DOT characterized this latest round of grants as their largest investment in RAISE Program history.
Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-02) explained in a press release that the Tucson grant will update the 22nd Street bridge to accommodate heavy vehicles like trucks, buses, and emergency medical services — something the bridge was unable to do before, which Kirkpatrick said led to traffic congestion and delays.
“Increasing capacity on 22nd street will reconnect our communities and facilitate a necessary east-west economic and transportation corridor between downtown Tucson and disconnected and underserved areas in the city,” said Kirkpatrick. “This project will help close the gaps in our city’s transportation infrastructure, and support equitable access to resources and opportunities for all Tucsonans.”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego shared that the $25 million for a bridge over the Rio Salado river would connect downtown Phoenix to South Phoenix. Gallego provided a map of the planned bridge location, which revealed that the bridge would span the Rio Salado River and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, going from Central Avenue to State Route 143.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is hoping the U.S. House of Representatives takes a hard look at H.R. 5376, which was formerly known as the Build Back Better Act until being recently rechristened as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
“Arizona job creators oppose the vast majority of the provisions in this bill,” Chamber CEO Danny Seiden said Sunday after the U.S. Senate passed the legislation on party lines. “This bill will not reduce inflation and it will not make the U.S. economy more competitive. Renaming a massive tax and spending bill the Inflation Reduction Act does not improve it.”
Seiden says Sen. Kyrsten Sinema met with Arizona business stakeholders to hear their concerns and did help blunt some of the more harmful provisions, especially those which impact manufacturing businesses already doubly hit by inflation and supply chain disruptions
He also acknowledged there are a few beneficial elements of H.R. 5376 such as provisions which encourage continued business investment and provide significant drought resiliency funding to promote a water secure future.
But despite some of “positive aspects,” Seiden insists H.R. 5376 leaves much to be desired. Which is why he and other state business leaders are calling on Arizona’s nine Representatives to take a closer look at the bill in advance of an expected Aug. 12 vote.
“With the bill headed to the House, we would encourage the Arizona delegation to consider the legislation’s negative effect on Arizona jobs,” Seiden said, adding that that renaming the unpopular Build Back Better Act does not improve the fact the legislation is a massive tax and spending bill.
The legislation is estimated to raise $740 billion in additional revenue from new taxes as well as more enforcement of existing tax laws. It also authorizes $430 billion in new spending, although a more thorough analysis by the Congressional Budget Office has not been completed.
One thing the CBO already knows, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said on the Senate Floor, is that what he labeled the “so-called” Inflation Reduction Act will have “a minimal impact on inflation.”
The CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers also expressed disappointment with H.R. 5376. According to Jay Timmons, the Inflation Reduction Act will stifle manufacturing investment in America, undermining the very businesses which kept America’s economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be sure, (the bill) was worse before Sen. Sinema worked to protect some areas of manufacturing investment,” Timmons said. “But the final bill is still bad policy and will harm our ability to compete in a global economy.”
Also speaking out against H.R. 5376 is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, whose members will be directly impacted by Medicare drug price controls included in the legislation.
“They say they’re fighting inflation, but the Biden administration’s own data show that prescription medicines are not fueling inflation,” said PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl. “And they say the bill won’t harm innovation, but various experts, biotech investors and patient advocates agree that this bill will lead to fewer new cures and treatments for patients battling cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.”
Over the weekend, Arizona’s two Democratic senators, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, fell in line with their party and backed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA passed the Senate on Sunday along party lines, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
The IRA, a repackaged version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) Act, projected well over $700 billion in revenue. However, some analysts have warned that the IRA will have the opposite desired effect on job creation, inflation and deficit reduction, incomes, tax rates, and drug prices.
The two senators opposed amendments to the IRA that would fund $500 million to finish the border wall, approve coal leases, increase domestic oil production in order to lower gas prices, protect those making under $400,000 from additional tax audits, limit price controls for treatments for conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, require oil and gas lease sales in the outer Continental Shelf, provide discounted insulin for low and middle-income Americans, remove $45 million in climate-related expenditures, retain Title 42, strike a tax increase resulting in higher energy prices for those earning under $400,000, hire more Border Patrol agents, reduce drug prices, invest in violent crime prevention, and prohibit tax credits for electric vehicles built with slave labor.
The IRA will also expand the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by up to 87,000 more employees through an $80 billion investment. That will make the IRS bigger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and Border Patrol combined, as noted by Washington Free Beacon. IRS data reveals that over half of all IRS audits in 2021 focused on taxpayers making less than $75,000 a year.
All Democrats, including Kelly and Sinema, rejected an amendment to remove provisions expanding the IRS.
Arizonans gathered on Saturday in Phoenix to protest Sinema and Kelly’s support of the bill. FreedomWorks Grassroots Director and Co-founder of EZAZ.org Merissa Hamilton, who helped organize the protest, criticized Sinema and Kelly for supporting the IRS increase, which she called an “inquisition” comparable to the treatment of ideological opponents under the Obama administration.
“Clearly, your IRS inquisitions are to target us like you did the Obama-Biden administration, and we have had enough,” said Hamilton. “We’re already in the middle of a recession — I know it’s tough for you to say the “r” word, but it’s time for you to take responsibility, represent Arizona, and stop betraying us.”
An amendment to prevent oil sales to China was ruled out of order by Senate chair after Kelly and Sinema joined the majority of Democrats to waive it.
Sinema insisted that the IRA would “help Arizonans build better lives” through lowered prices on goods and services, accessible health care, and water and energy security. Sinema promised that the IRA would cause Arizona’s economy to improve.
As AZ Free News reported last week, Sinema’s original holdout on the IRA concerned its carried tax provision. Democratic leadership agreed to drop that provision in order to earn her vote.
Kelly elaborated further on the rationale for the Arizona senators’ votes. He said that the IRA will lower prescription drug costs, implement funding to effectively combat drought and “climate change,” and reduce the deficit. Kelly promised that the IRA wouldn’t result in increased taxes for small businesses and middle-class Arizonans.
“When I meet with Arizonans and small businesses across our state, the top concern I hear about is rising costs,” said Kelly. “This is going to lower costs for health care, prescription drugs, and energy while creating great-paying jobs in Arizona.”
Notable opposition to the IRA came from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The senator criticized the IRA for not doing enough to help the working class, and proposed amendments to modify the bill that were roundly rejected, 99-1. However, Sanders ultimately fell in line with the Democratic Party and voted for the bill.
Following Tuesday’s primary election win, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters appears to have shifted his campaign tone to appeal to independent voters. That base of “other” voters is the second largest, a close second to registered Republicans.
In a campaign video released Wednesday, Masters’ descriptors now read “independent.” Past videos displayed prominently former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, as well as his features on right-leaning networks like Fox News and conservative pundits’ shows, such as those hosted by Ben Shapiro and Steve Bannon.
In the video, Masters’ wife asserts that America’s heading down a bad path, narrating a smiling Masters playing with his children.
“He’s in it because he loves his country so much, and he loves his state so much. He would make Arizona so proud,” said Catherine.
Masters’ tone shift likely has to do with the increase in Arizona’s independent voters. There are more independent than Democratic voters, and their base comes in a close second to Republican voters.
The secretary of state’s latest voter registration data reported well over 1.4 million Republicans (34 percent), slightly over 1.4 million “other” voters (33 percent, which includes independents, those without a party preference, and those without a major party), and under 1.3 million Democrats (31 percent).
Masters won Tuesday’s primary with slightly over 39 percent of the vote (over 250,800 votes). Candidate Jim Lamon came in second with nearly 29 percent of the vote (under 185,000 votes), and Attorney General Mark Brnovich came in third with over 18 percent of the voter (over 117,300 votes).
Candidate Mick McGuire earned under 9 percent of the vote (under 56,600 votes), and Justin Olson earned over 5 percent (over 32,800 votes).
Altogether, voters who participated in the Republican primary totaled about 642,500. That’s just over 1 percent of all registered voters, and over 22 percent of Republican and “other” (includes independents) combined.
Masters will face off against the incumbent, Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), who was uncontested in his election. Kelly pulled just under 495,500 votes.
On Sunday, Arizona’s two Democratic senators announced a sweeping gun control proposal to curb gun ownership of the mentally ill and domestic abusers, as well as expand mental health and school safety programs.
The proposal hasn’t been introduced as formal legislation, let alone a formal, standalone document. It proposes to prevent court-ruled dangers to the public from obtaining firearms; expand community behavioral health centers, mental health and suicide prevention programs in communities, schools, and telehealth networks, and other similar community support services; add convicted domestic violence abusers and those with domestic violence restraining orders to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS); increase funding for K-12 school safety programs and training; increase punishment for evading firearm dealer licensing requirements and for illegal straw purchasing and trafficking; and require juvenile and mental health background checks for firearm buyers under 21 years old.
The legislation is a bipartisan effort, with 10 senators from each party issuing support. Republican senators who signed on were Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Mitt Romney (R-UT).
Democrats who signed onto the proposal were Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Joe Manchin (D-WV).
One independent, Senator Angus King (I-ME), agreed to the proposal.
This latest gun control proposal comes less than three weeks after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
In a statement, President Joe Biden commended Sinema for the legislation specifically, along with Cornyn and Tillis.
“Obviously, it does not do everything I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” stated Biden. “Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”
According to the CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) latest data, there were over 45,200 total firearm deaths in 2020. Nearly 24,300 of those deaths were suicides, nearly 19,400 were homicides, just over 600 were legal intervention, and 535 were unintentional. 400 firearm deaths had an undetermined intent.
A vast majority of the firearm deaths occurred in males: nearly 39,000 versus just over 6,200 females. As for race, about twice the number of white men were killed by firearms in 2020 over black men. 21,000 of the men who died were white, non-Hispanic males; over 12,500 were Black, non-Hispanic males; and just under 4,200 were white Hispanic males.
Just under 3,900 of the women who died were white, non-Hispanic females; nearly 1,600 were Black, non-Hispanic females; and over 500 were white Hispanic females.
Blue counties accounted for the top ten highest firearm death rates of all counties in the country. They’ve been ranked below from the greatest to least number of homicides.
Cook County, Illinois: 82 percent were homicides, or 862 out of 1040 deaths; Biden won with over 74 percent of the vote in the 2020 presidential election.
Los Angeles County, California: over 62 percent, or 524 of 837 deaths; Biden won with 71 percent of the vote.
Harris County, Texas: over 61 percent were homicides, or 475 of 773 deaths; Biden won with over 56 percent of the vote.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: over 84 percent were homicides, or 453 of 538 deaths; Biden won with over 81 percent of the vote.
Wayne County, Michigan: over 75 percent were homicides, or 344 of 458 deaths; Biden won with over 68 percent of the vote.
Dallas County, Texas: nearly 61 percent were homicides, or 251 of 412 deaths; Biden won with over 65 percent of the vote.
Maricopa County, Arizona: over 35 percent were homicides, or 249 of 702 deaths; Biden won with over 50 percent of the vote.
Marion County, Indiana: 69 percent were homicides, or 219 of 317 deaths; Biden won with nearly 64 percent of the vote.
Miami-Dade County, Florida: 64 percent were homicides, or 208 of 325 deaths; Biden won with over 53 percent of the vote.
Tarrant County, Texas: over 45 percent were homicides, or 140 of 309 deaths; Biden won with over 49 percent of the vote.