At a Thursday night forum on education funding at Wilson School, District 26 Reps. Nancy Young Wright and Vic Williams said some of the things people want to hear from political leaders.

“It’s important to try to keep working with each other despite the disagreements we may have,” Young Wright, the Democrat, said.

“I will stake my political career on continuing to govern toward the center,” said Williams, the Republican.  “What we’re in the middle of absolutely transcends” politics.

What we’re in the middle of is a budget shortfall, fueled by a slowed economy that may not emerge quickly from recession. The shortfall is $1.6 billion for the current fiscal year, and could reach $3 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Immediately, the Republican-controlled Legislature has cut K-12 and university funding, and there is considerable talk about larger reductions next year.

Such talk makes parents and educators very nervous. One by one, they came to the microphone Thursday, quickly stating their names, then venting frustrations.

“I’m afraid we’re going to tighten the belt and cut off circulation,” one teacher said.

“I’m disheartened as a parent today that our Legislature has a very short-sighted idea to address a long-term problem,” one mother said. “Cutting education has not benefited our state.”

“This district is very passionate about education,” one father said. “This district has a strong history of Republican leadership. They have always supported education.”

One woman turned to the audience to speak.

“You need to get organizations at your school, and you need the positive people, not the people who are mad,” she said. The Legislature will conduct “analysis, paralysis, on and on. No disrespect,” she said, gesturing to Williams and Young Wright, “but you do, you talk and talk and talk.”

“There is a special responsibility for the party in power to take a leadership position in bipartisanship,” one father said. That party would be the Republicans. They want budget cuts. The Democrats want tax increases. They need one another to achieve political objectives.

 “These cuts are woeful, and they are unwise,” said one mom. “Act with courage and wisdom to protect education, K-12 and universities.”

One act that makes sense — allow the statewide property equalization tax for schools to continue. It would generate about $250 million a year, and it hits all property owners, residential and commercial alike.

A parent said the tax equates to about $8 a month for homeowners, or the equivalent of “two mocha Frappuccino things a month.” That’s an expense everyone can bear.

Give new Gov. Jan Brewer credit for fortitude. The appointed Republican told legislators Arizona needs $1 billion more from taxes, be they property, sales or some other form. Tax talk leaves members of her own party queasy — one walked out of her speech (and don’t you hate those kinds of acts) — yet the Legislature faces almost-frightening budget-cutting alternatives. What to do, what to do.

Young Wright and Williams say they want to cooperate and compromise, yet each is waiting for the other to take some small step toward the middle. Neither wants to jump off the cliff without the other. Such is politics, and governance in difficult times.

One parent who spoke Thursday is also a business consultant, with corporations forming 65 percent of her client base. “Every one has had a layoff,” she said.

“We can’t keep adding the taxes. Yes, we need spending cuts, yes we need tax hikes, but let’s do cuts responsibly, and let’s do tax increases responsibly. It’s always Democrat versus Republican, Republican versus Democrat, and I’m tired of it,” she said.

“I understand that business, education, public, private, we’re all in this together, and we’re all struggling.”

Couldn’t be better said.

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