‘War' Is Top Concern At Republican Luncheon

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War. War with Iraq, war with the bark beetle and environmental extremists, war with the state budget.

War was the topic at the Gila County Republican Committee's Feb. 15 Lincoln Day lunch with Congressman Rick Renzi and Arizona Speaker of the House Jake Flake.

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Congressman Rick Renzi (left) visits with one of the many constituents who took time out Feb. 15 to meet with him at the Gila County Republican Committee's annual Lincoln Day Luncheon.

Renzi said he has heard the evidence about Iraq.

"They have weapons of mass destruction, there is no doubt. Twelve years of French, German and U.N. appeasement has not worked," he said. "Pre-emptive measures must be considered. The enemy is within our borders. There are terror cells in this country. When we look at a post-war Iraq, it will be filled with evidence, it will not be much different than what we saw in post-war Germany."

He said the conflict with Iraq is not about oil, only 27 percent of the oil used by the U.S. comes from foreign sources. The conflict lies with the fact that 77 percent of the population in Iraq does not want a corrupt leader.

"War is not absolute. It would be better if we could disarm Iraq peacefully," Renzi said.

Beetle-mania

As for the local war on the bark beetle, he said, "We are all environmentalists, trying to do what's best for our land. What we don't want to see is environmental extremism.

"Legislation by Congressman Jeff Flake for a categorical exclusion (to existing laws and policies) would give two years to go in and harvest timber (in a burned area). I am asking that an amendment be added to include timber damaged by the bark beetle," he said.

Renzi said there also is legislation to provide federal funds to create defensible bands of land in the areas at greatest risk of overburns -- that money will be made available to clear out fire fuels from community areas most likely to be in the path of a wildfire.

The congressman said residents will have an opportunity to take their concerns about the forest, the environment and the economy to the country's highest officials at hearings starting in March.

He said Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and Scott McGinnis of the U.S. Forest Service will all be at the hearings.

To find out more about the hearings, or to express other concerns to Congressman Renzi, he can be contacted through constituent service representatives Jimmy Jayne at (928) 537-2800, or Nelson Pierce at (928) 595-2082.

The congressman's Washington, D.C. telephone number is (202) 225-2315, his fax number is (202) 226-9739.

Speaker speaks

"We have a great session (ahead of us)," Arizona Speaker of the House Jake Flake said. "The five most important things we will be dealing with are budget, budget, budget, budget, budget. I really wish we'd do nothing else, except address forest health and water. The Legislature is only mandated to do a budget."

He said almost every state in the country is having the same problem with their budget. Some are going to have to balance the books at the expense of education, health and welfare. In Arizona, increases in funding for education and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System are proposed.

"The budget is a big and thorny issue. We have $5.5 billion in state revenue, which we don't expect to increase. There is a $6 billion budget for 2003, with the half billion difference made up with bonding for capital needs. And a $7 billion budget is projected for 2004 because of mandated increases. It doesn't work," Flake said.

He said it would be easy to tell the state agencies to live with what they were given last year, but the laws passed by voters -- like that allocating sales taxes to reduce classroom sizes, raise teacher pay and reduce the dropout rate -- will not allow a budget freeze. To do that would require another vote of the people.

So, the Legislature must look at cuts for 2004, including services, though not for schools, safety, the elderly, infirm and children.

As for forest health, Flake said not one single tree on Forest Service land hit by the Rodeo-Chediski Fire has been cut because of lawsuits filed by environmentalists.

"It's time for us to stand up (to environmentalists) and say that's enough," the speaker said.

Regarding water, Flake said there are some major studies being conducted.

"We need to start thinking big again, with projects like Roosevelt and the Central Arizona Project," Flake said. "Things like that can be done and they will solve the problem. We must think outside the box."

To contact the speaker, call (602) 542-5219 or send e-mail to jflake@azleg.state.az.us.

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