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Bipartisanship, political civility are possible

Many people have asked me whether I believe there is a real chance for bipartisanship, political civility and statesmanship to prevail in our current political climate. They are surprised when I say, “yes!” The majority of legislation passed in every session at the Capitol is very much a product of bipartisan cooperation. Though bills may be characterized as non-controversial or simple, they are numerous and have a real impact on people’s lives.

In times past, bipartisanship was only possible when bountiful state budgets provided ample capital with which to negotiate. This used to serve as the basis for bipartisan statesmanship and compromise. Regardless of what it is presently called, what is obvious is that the elements of the art of statesmanship and compromise have now changed. Bipartisanship must now be accomplished without the use of once-seemingly limitless budgets.

It is an irrefutable fact that we no longer have discretionary funds. Those funds have been exhausted and we now find ourselves in debt. We could continue to borrow in order to support our operational costs, but at some point we must recognize that such practices will cease to be an option.

Despite our circumstances, I believe cooperation in our Capitol is still possible. In the last three years, we addressed the structural deficit through permanent spending reductions and through tough negotiations to only temporarily raise revenues. With these solutions behind us, it is now time to engage in meaningful policymaking. This will require us to put aside partisan bickering in order to concentrate on what is right and necessary for the good of all Arizona’s citizens.

We do also need to examine the hearts and minds of Arizonans to learn about their desires, which with this state will move forward. Some desire their state government to secure everyone’s chances to their pursuit of happiness, individual competition, as well as charitable opportunity. Others desire the redistribution of private wealth and increased dependency on the public funds of the state. It is time for the people to decide which philosophy will provide them with the best future.

Despite these conflicting ideological differences, I foresee what can hold us together is not unlike what cements the bonds between the men and women of our military. Our armed forces are comprised of Republicans and Democrats alike. They fight as one to defend our nation’s freedom. This serves as a great example of how people who ascribe to extremely differing philosophies can still fight for a common cause.

Therefore, if we collectively hold a soft, unproductive economy and an insurmountable debt as our common enemy I propose we find the common ground with which to defeat it. If Democrats can’t agree to cut without raising taxes and Republicans won’t vote for increased taxes then let’s cap the budget where it is and dedicate future revenue increases and spending savings to service our debt and emergency contingencies.

So if bipartisanship is to be known as the act of people being intellectually engaged and ready to fight, then surely there is room in the Legislature for it. No good will be accomplished and our economic woes will never be resolved if the representatives of the people temper their passions and beliefs while trying to combat our common enemy.

We cannot allow for those who seek to promote infighting in the pursuit of partisan advancement. The people of Arizona sent us 90 leaders to move Arizona forward. I am proud to honor and serve with this talented and resourceful group of public servants. I expect that in our 100th year of statehood we will live up to our obligation to provide for the common good, the security of the American Dream and to authentically come together to fight our common enemies. This is my New Year’s wish for my beloved Arizona.

— Andy Tobin, a Paulden Republican, is speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.

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