A state budget that can only be described as disastrous is taking shape as Gov. Jan Brewer stands on the sidelines, unwilling to get involved.
This budget, if approved in anything close to its present form, will deeply hurt schools, cities, clinics, hospitals, universities and services for children and the developmentally disabled.
It will eviscerate many state services and drive away businesses hoping to locate or expand here. And it will take years for the state to recover.
Brewer, who earlier staked out a strong position in favor of preserving essential state services, has turned tail and run away, displaying a complete lack of backbone. Her noninvolvement in dealing with this – the state’s most pressing issue – is deeply disappointing.
Despite promises of openness and transparency, Republicans in the state House have drawn up their budget plan in secret. Many Republicans legislators as well as all Democrats have been shut out of the process.
The result is terrible.
Cities and counties that collected impact fees from developers to build roads, parks and public safety facilities would have to turn over $265 million of that to the state. That’s grossly unfair as cities and counties deal with their own budget problems.
There are raids on school funds, in addition to proposed cuts in school operating payments – cuts that run counter to voter-approved increases.
The Legislature also plans to eliminate Science Foundation Arizona, which was formed to nurture high-tech businesses.
And legislators are relying largely on one-time money from fund sweeps and from the federal stimulus program for much of the budget fix – not a sound way to situate the state for future years.
Despite all these deep cuts, the state budget still is about $700 million short of being in balance.
Recognizing the impossibility of balancing the budget while still providing needed services, Brewer several months ago said she wanted a $1 billion per year temporary tax increase. She also said she would submit her own proposal for a balanced budget.
She has failed to submit a budget plan and to flesh out details of the tax increase proposal. And although she said several times that the tax boost was one of her budget “principles,” she’s abandoned that position.
So much for principles. What does Brewer stand for?
This is a budget proposal that would devastate Arizona. And it is being pushed through as the governor is MIA.
It is a shameful performance by the person who is supposed to be the state’s leader – a performance that voters certainly will remember next year if and when she seeks election to this job she inherited.