Are they a bunch of losers or what? Voters are sure to wonder after taking a look at the Goldwater Institute's 2003 Legislative Report Card. (See on opposite page.)
None of the 15 members of the Tucson delegation scored higher than a C+ and 11 got F's. Although the Legislature scored poorly as a whole-with both the House and Senate scoring under 50 percent-Tucson lawmakers had some of the lowest grades in the state.
Don't jump to the conclusion, however, that Tucson could use a good legislative housecleaning.
The group handing out the grades has its own political agenda, modeled upon the political beliefs of the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz. So it's no surprise that a more liberal Tucson wouldn't measure up too well against the Goldwater Institute's yardstick.
Goldwater, one of the state's most renowned conservatives, was an advocate of limited government, individual liberty and individual responsibility.
That means lawmakers who voted to increase the state budget, go further into debt and impose more regulations got low grades from the Goldwater Institute. So did lawmakers who voted against spending limits and expanding school choice.
Republicans generally got higher grades than Democrats, no surprise there, and one reason the predominately Democrat Tucson delegation fared poorly.
The upshot is, if you embrace the political ideals of Goldwater, the Institute's report card is an apt guide of legislative performance. If Goldwater's politics offended you, low-scoring lawmakers are right up your political alley. Regardless of one's political leanings, the Goldwater Institute does a thorough and useful job of political analyses.
Too many government debates focus on whether to spend more money. The Goldwater Institute busies itself with pondering whether tax dollars are well spent.
Because state government falls woefully short in that regard, lawmakers who got high grades on the legislative report card aren't necessarily the best. They're the ones voting against more money for schools, hiring more child abuse investigators, and otherwise strengthening health and welfare programs.
Let those folks take care of themselves, as Goldwater might say if he were alive today. That's a bit too calloused for many Arizonans.