Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

State’s leaders play chicken while the budget burns

The 91 people tasked with leading this state through the worst fiscal crisis in its history are failing.


Monday is the 161st day since the Legislature convened and the 152nd since Jan Brewer became governor and there still is no signed budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins 11 days later.

The fiscal crisis – caused by tax receipts coming in billions of dollars short of planned spending – did not creep up on this crew. The Legislature has been slashing its way through budget shortfalls for more than a year.

But instead of leadership we’ve been served a big stinking pile of brinksmanship.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a budget June 4 but as of Friday, it hasn’t been sent to the Republican governor.

Why? She’s indicated she’ll veto it. Her budget proposal relies on a voter-approved tax increase and spends a few hundred million more than the Legislature’s bill. Talks between her and legislative leaders broke down last week.

To prevent her from vetoing it now and putting the onus back on the Legislature to pass a new budget by June 30, the conventional wisdom around the Capitol is that Senate President Bob Burns and Speaker of the House Kirk Adams intend to wait until June 29 or 30 before sending Brewer the budget bill.

That puts a government-shutdown gun to Brewer’s head – sign the bill as submitted or veto it and shut down the state government – or most of it – until a new budget gets passed.

How clever.

Brewer, clever woman that she is, responded by suing all 90 legislators to force them to send her the bill now. The state Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing tomorrow to decide if it wants to get into the middle of this GOP internecine rumble. It probably won’t.

You’d think members of the same party could come to agreement on such a vital, historic bill. But each side seems consumed more with proving who’s really in charge than with good governance.

Meanwhile, supposedly lying in the weeds are the Democrats, who are waiting for Brewer and a few Republican legislators to break ranks and come to them for help, which is what happened last year.

But rather than lying in the weeds it’s more like the Democrats are laid out in the weeds, having lost seats in last year’s election. Moreover, there are fewer moderate Republicans to break ranks. The state’s conservatives went RINO hunting in the primaries last year and bagged most of them.

So don’t count on the hapless Democrats and moderate Republicans riding to the rescue this year.

Our state’s leaders have had five months to prove they’re selfless public servants worthy of the trust we put in them when we elected them.

Instead they’ve only shown they’re clever ideologues willing to play chicken with the future of our state in order to score political points.

The great shame in all of this is that the six million of us left staring bewildered at our squalid government can’t do anything about it until November 2010.

It can’t come soon enough.

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