The Legislature’s draft spending proposal slashes education; health care for poor and disabled Arizonans; child protection; and other services to balance the budget without obvious tax increases or borrowing.
It’s a perfect illustration of how the majority of our legislators try to cling to conservative ideology – i.e., no new taxes – while ignoring the many consequences, from human suffering to setting our economy even further back than it has fallen.
Evidently this ill-conceived budget is the best they can produce after nearly four months in session. Given that failure of leadership, where is Gov. Jan Brewer?
Brewer vowed months ago to push for a new tax via a special election to raise $3 billion. Yet she still hasn’t said what type or size tax she would like to pursue or how the new revenue would be spent from her “five-point tax hike plan.”
Brewer also promised to provide her own detailed budget proposal, but she hasn’t done so even as Arizona struggles through its worst budget crisis in history.
Meanwhile, Republican budget negotiators are playing a veritable shell game with our money while feigning protection of taxpayers.
They want to sweep more than $300 million in savings accounts from school districts, for example, even though much of that money typically is used to cut local property taxes.
They also want to strip about $265 million from cities and counties, a move that likely would force some local governments to pursue new taxes to cover the shortfall.
Yet at the same time, legislators have waived $240 million in outstanding taxes due from corporations, and have terminated 300 employees from the Department of Revenue – staffers whose absence will cost the state $174 million in lost collections, Brewer advisers say.
Legislators and Brewer are ducking responsibility when Arizona needs them most.
Now an even more bleak picture is emerging, as April tax figures show a revenue shortfall of as much as $300 million will materialize by June. That’s on top of the $487 million shortfall already documented.
So how will Republican budget gurus cope with that? By cutting more services for vulnerable Arizonans, we’d wager.
Now more than ever, Arizona needs its governor to exercise some leadership. Brewer has failed to do so, but she still can step up.
We urge her to show some strength before our schools fall apart, hospitals overflow and local governments suffer. Governor, Arizonans are counting on you.