We've all spent long hours in doctors' waiting rooms after waiting weeks just to get an appointment. It's no secret that Arizona has a doctor shortage. A 2001 Goldwater Institute study revealed that Arizona has 172 physicians per 100,000 residents; the recommended ratio is 195 physicians per 100,000 residents.
Some assume the shortage stems from a lack of medical schools in Arizona. That's the rationale for Governor Napolitano's approval of $7 million in first-year funding for a downtown medical school.
But as study authors Jeffrey Singer, M.D., and Craig Cantoni found, the shortage is instead due to high malpractice insurance premiums, a high rate of uninsured patients, and regulations that make it difficult and expensive for doctors to practice here. Building a new medical school at public expense does not address any of those problems.
And now comes word that a private medical school going up in Mesa will welcome 100 students to its campus, far more than the 24 students the state medical school plans to enroll.
Given the large private medical school and the state's misunderstanding of the cause of the doctor shortage, it appears the publicly-funded downtown medical school is no cure for the waiting room blues.
In this summer's special session, state legislators will consider ways to comply with a federal court order mandating that the state provide an "adequate level of funding" for English Language Learners (ELL).
But does "adequate funding" mean that the state should spend more than the reportedly almost $80 million it spends each year on ELL programs? Not necessarily.
A February study revealed that neither the Department of Education nor the state has reliable information on the costs or expenditures of Arizona's ELL programs, making it difficult to determine what constitutes "adequate funding." At a minimum, policymakers should remedy this lack of information by requiring schools to submit accurate financial statements on an annual basis.
Policymakers should also question the assumption that more money will be the answer to lagging achievement among ELL students. The February study found that some ELL students were not being taught in English, English-speaking children were classified as ELL students, and parents were not informed of their children's English proficiency test results.
Measures that improve accountability will help ensure valuable public money spent on such programs achieves the goal of providing the education that children deserve.
A small but important detail was overlooked by the press in the recent budget kerfuffle: the governor's line item veto that restored a guaranteed minimum level of funding for the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority (ATSA), which is charged with developing sports facilities-including the new Cardinals Stadium-in Maricopa County. The ATSA gets about 17 percent of its annual budget from an NFL income tax. As it stands however, if revenue from that source falls below a certain level, the Authority receives an automatic transfer from the state's general fund.
HB2770, drafted as part of myriad budget measures, would have eliminated that automatic transfer. The state House and Senate had both approved the measure by May 6. By May 11, there were reports that the ATSA was asking Gov. Napolitano to line-item veto the legislation, which had not yet made it to the governor's desk. On May 20, Gov. Napolitano sided with the ATSA and vetoed the measure.
The governor's veto lacked the controversy and appeal of her simultaneous, more famous vetoes, because little ink has been spilled locally questioning the wisdom of publicly subsidized sports venues and teams. But policymakers would do well to heed the ample academic literature on this question-which is overwhelmingly skeptical of such investments-as they potentially face this issue again next year.
"Desert tourism meccas" like Phoenix, Tucson, Palm Springs and Las Vegas may be "thriving," as an Arizona Republic headline suggests, but they are not all thriving alike.
In a detailed review of the four desert oases, the Republic covered nearly every eccentricity that defines the character of each destination, save one: taxes.
Specifically, occupancy taxes. The range is wide in the above group, and interestingly, the differences in occupancy taxes parallel the differences in occupancy rates.
For instance, in the "key first-quarter season" just ended, Las Vegas had the highest percentage of rooms filled, 89.1 percent, and Palm Springs was on the low end at 73.8 percent. However, Las Vegas' occupancy tax is a full 4.5 percent lower than Palm Springs'. Phoenix and Tucson round out the middle of the group, both with occupancy and tax rates just shy of 80 and 12 percent, respectively.
It seems from this pattern that taxes have something to do with choice of vacation destination in much the same way as taxes influence choice of place to live. That brings into serious question plans for public financing of convention centers and hotels.
Cities may build it, but visitors come when the price is right-and taxes are low.
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