Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

No hope Republicans will do what’s necessary for budget in historic session

Today is the start of perhaps the most important legislative session in Arizona history.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we said the same thing last year about last year’s session.

In that editorial, we argued that Arizona needs an effective, functioning government to foster a prospering economy, educate its citizens and provide for their health, safety and welfare. To do that, state government needed funding but the state’s budgeting process was broken and in need of massive reform.

It was incumbent, we argued, upon the state Legislature to do what it hadn’t done the past two years and balance the budget through spending cuts and tax increases while also presenting to voters a number of reforms necessary to unscramble the mess we’ve created in this state the past decade.

Then we predicted they’d fail and we’d all be the worse for it.

Sorry to say we were right.

But the opportunity to fix what’s broken still exists. Alas, we are even more pessimistic that our state leaders will do anything to fix it.

The Democrats, what few that remain in the Legislature, are hapless and helpless, out of power and out of ideas. The Republicans consist primarily of de-facto anarchists – government haters giddy at the prospect of using the economic and budget crisises as an excuse to destroy state government.

Their failure to do anything meaningful to repair the crumbling state budget is clearly willful. It’s not like they’re doing everything they can and it just isn’t working. Numerous think tanks since the economic crisis began have offered road maps to resurrection but they refuse to follow the trail.

The latest is ASU’s Morrison Institute, a public policy think tank that, along with Brookings Mountain West, a similar think tank at UNLV, released a study last week explaining the structural defects in Arizona’s budget. They also offered a list of solutions, many of which are well known having been laid out by ad hoc groups such as Lattie Coor’s Center for the Future of Arizona and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s House Project. Even the Legislature’s own Joint Legislative Budget Committee has been calling for structural reforms since the crisis began in late 2007.

All have said spending cuts alone will not solve the problem; the state needs to raise more revenue. But Republicans have refused to consider any tax increases and instead are madly proposing more tax cuts.

All have said a package of reforms must be sent to voters asking them to release the Legislature from mandated spending initiatives that are killing the budget and the state. No reform packages have been submitted and none are expected.

Arizona is broken. Who will fix it? We, the voters, last month overwhelmingly decided it will be fixed by more of the same people who have failed to fix it the past three years.

Einstein is widely credited with saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result each time.

It seems that when it comes to having a functioning government in Arizona, we’ve all gone insane.

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