Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Democratic legislators should take their budget ball and go home. What’s to lose?

The best thing state Democratic legislators can do in this budget crisis is get out of the way.

They’re pretty much irrelevant as it is. They’re in the minority and there are no more moderate Republicans to come over to their side at the last minute to make them relevant as happened the past two years.

So they should just go home. No more protests and rallies on the Capitol Mall. No more jeering from the gallery. Just get up and walk out.

And in a year they will have a good chance of rising like a Phoenix to take back control of the Legislature and possibly the governor’s office.


Because the Republicans seem hell bent on destroying their party and the state.

Just like Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay and George W. Bush destroyed the national GOP in their Machiavellian governance, the state’s Republican leadership is doing its best to torpedo every Republican legislator planning on running for re-election in 2010.

Their rigid ideology and unfathomable dithering for the past six months has delivered a state budget that is stunning in its shortsightedness.

The budget that is likely to be passed and signed this week is mostly the same lame budget the Republican leadership came up with between January and June.

The only difference is now there will be a public vote to increase sales taxes. But any benefit from the sales tax increase will be mostly offset by new massive income and property tax cuts, which voters will know about when they go to the polls.

The sales tax increase is supposed to preserve education and social welfare funding. But how is that going to happen when you put money in one pocket and take it out of another? You’re still just as broke as when you started, or nearly so. So why would you vote to make your purchases more expensive if there’s no real benefit?

Which means there’s a good chance this tax increase could be rejected.

Then what?

Well, if the Republicans had spent the past six months operating with any sense of urgency they would have come up with a massive government reform package to give to voters that solves our ridiculous public funding problems, not just delaying them to another budget year.

Prop. 105, which voters passed a few years ago to prevent Legislative tinkering of voter-passed initiatives, is killing the budget and needs to be repealed. Voters will have that chance this November, thankfully, but it will mean nothing if state financing is not reformed and diversified.

Reliance on sales taxes not only burdens the poor more than the rich, they’re subject to the vagaries of the economy. We need a diversified tax base that uses income, property and broader consumption taxes more evenly so that the budget can weather the occasional economic storm.

That should be followed by a candid examination of all state programs and the elimination or reduction of those we no longer need or need less of.

But that’s not what we got. This budget deals with this year only and in doing so makes next year worse.

In just five months, these same people will be back at the Legislature for the 2010 session and they will be facing the same budgetary shortfalls they faced this year.

Except there won’t be any federal stimulus money to throw at the problem.

And there won’t be any more state buildings to mortgage or further county and local funds to raid.

Next year will make this year look like a minor accounting error that needed adjusting.

And the same people who brought us this year’s mess will still be in charge.

So the Democrats should just step back and let the Republicans immolate themselves and the state.

Sure, they’d be taking the chance that the Republicans might be right and everything will be fine, securing Arizona as a Red State for decades to come. But who really thinks that will happen? Plus, Democrats have nothing to lose. Once you’re irrelevant, you’re irrelevant. You can’t become less irrelevant.

So what’s to lose? Go home and hope there’s something left to rebuild after Nov. 2, 2010.

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