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Fighting Words 

After casting the lone Democratic vote against the Senate budget, state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird says she received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls thanking her for taking a stand. She'd voted for a similar budget the previous year--one that cut programs instead of raising taxes. "This year, I couldn't do it," Kinnaird says. "I just couldn't do it. It's become a centerpiece of my campaign" for re-election.

Here's part of a speech she made on the Senate floor that day:

On why we're in this budget situation:
"I want to place the blame where it belongs--on Republicans who took away our ability to provide for our most vulnerable citizens when they set the public policy debate by their persistent mantra: Tax cuts. ... Sadly, I and other Democrats went along with some of those cuts, including the inheritance tax, corporate income tax and others that benefited the wealthy."

On program cuts:
"So the cuts began ... and where did these cuts come from? From programs for the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Those to whom our stewardship has been given. Why are we cutting in these areas? Because the special interests have protected their turfs and the voices of the weak are too diffuse to form an effective threat against the threat of an attack ad saying 'Legislator X raised your taxes.' Governing has been replaced by attack ads and pledges not to raise taxes, no matter the harm to our people. ... When these folks come to us in their wheelchairs or with their disabled children and say to us, 'Why are you doing this?' I say to them, 'Because you don't have a lobbyist in a $1,000 suit who sits here every day and takes legislators out to dinner and gives big campaign contributions. Your voice has power, but is not powerful."

What else can be done?
"There are resources available: A tobacco tax that would raise $380 million--more than the cuts to health and human services. A tax on beer and wine, on soft drinks. The response always is, 'Yes, that is true. But there aren't enough votes to pass a tax.' Those pledges again. But every poll shows that an overwhelming majority of our people support a tobacco and alcoholic beverage tax. "

  • Senate candidate Ellie Kinnaird, in her own words.

More by Barbara Solow

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