House speaker says address has ‘curiosity value’
If Gov. Janet Napolitano was expecting a fond farewell and “God Bless” from the Republican-dominated Legislature as she gave her final State of the State address Monday, then she hasn’t been paying attention for the past six years.
The response from Republican leadership afterward could be boiled down to one word:
In her speech, Napolitano acknowledged that difficult decisions lie ahead for the Legislature as the state wrestles with growing deficits.
She asked that legislators make choices that “are wise in the long run.”
“The task is to meet these great challenges with short-term decisions that do not dim the bright future of this remarkable state,” she said.
Such proclamations drew light applause – mostly from Democrats.
The Legislature has to cut about $1.6 billion from the current year budget and, in the face of equally bare-bones revenue projections for next year, pass a lean budget for fiscal 2010 year, which begins July 1.
Napolitano urged lawmakers to protect full-day kindergarten, early childhood education and teacher pay raises, and to continue to invest in the university system.
She asked them to consider their duty to care for the less fortunate in these hard times and to preserve services such as “education, foreclosure assistance, health care and shelter from abuse, neglect and domestic violence.”
She emphasized the need for the state to invest in its physical infrastructure with a statewide transportation plan.
But Napolitano could have stood on her head at the podium and delivered her speech in Japanese for all the impact it had on the Republicans who will set the course of the state for the next two years.
“It was a nice farewell speech and it’s probably counterproductive to get into critiquing it,” said Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria.
“The substance of the governor’s speech,” said House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, “is nothing more than curiosity value at this point.”
Napolitano promised to deliver to legislators later this week a 2010 budget that is balanced and protects the priorities she cited without any tax increases.
Burns and Adams made it clear that she needn’t bother. It was important that she had a chance to say farewell, Adams said, but, “Is it relevant to the upcoming session? No.”
The Republicans offered no details on what their budget will look like, except to reiterate that nothing is off the table. Adams said the Legislature will have to make tough decisions and is ready to do so.
“It’s not a matter of ideology,” he said. “It’s just a matter of mathematics.”
Asked whether the Legislature will cut with a scalpel or a hatchet, Burns said, “We’ll have to figure out which one of those tools we’re going to use.”
The House of Representatives will hold a “budget boot camp” and the Senate a “budget summit” starting Tuesday to lay out the details of the budget shortfall.
The Legislature’s Republican leadership also is hosting two panel discussions, having invited business leaders and local government representatives to describe their efforts to deal with the downturn in the economy and the impact on their budgets.
“The fun and games ends today,” Adams said Monday. (Tuesday) we get to work.”
Anne T. Denogean can be reached at 573-4582 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Address letters to P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767. Her columns run Tuesdays and Fridays.