Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Tax increase won’t cure Arizona’s ills

Guest Writer
Guest Opinion


Anyone who’s even glanced at the fiscal crisis confronting Gov. Jan Brewer knows there aren’t easy answers.

But government can present either the right or wrong answers. And increasing Arizona’s tax burden just as its families and businesses are feeling the greatest pinch is the wrong answer.

This course would do more harm than good. Instead of a $1 billion tax increase, Arizona needs to use this crisis as an opportunity to fundamentally change our economic direction.

Effects of the economic downturn are being felt around the globe, and the blame can be shared by both political parties, Wall Street, Washington and beyond.

No state has been hit harder than Arizona. We face the worst relative budget deficit of any state and now rank 49th in job creation – trailing behind even Michigan with its cratering auto industry.

This didn’t have to happen. We are at this point because state leaders failed to spur the creation of the industries and jobs of the future, to diversify our economy and to develop a more stable, modern tax system.

Now is not the time to compound those bad decisions by raising the tax burden on Arizonans or cutting the long-term investments we need avoid this dire situation down the road.

It is up to Brewer, Treasurer Dean Martin and legislative leaders to decide whether we pull ourselves out of this recession quickly or push our state into its worst economy ever.

A Democrat, I’ve seen my own party raise taxes on the middle class when we should have been lowering them.

Republican leaders appear headed to make that same mistake today.

Instead of passing the buck to Arizonans, government needs to take a hard look at its own operations – beyond the “meat cleaver” approach of legislative leaders and the “scalpel” promised by Brewer.

We need to reform Arizona government so it works better, costs less and provides 21st-century services. That means not taking the easy way by turning back to the budget of years gone by, as Brewer and Martin have proposed, but rather adopting “results-based budgeting.”

That new approach focuses not on what government spends but on the “bang” we get for those bucks.

In some areas, this will entail not just scaling back, but eliminating some of what government does, such as subsidies to lure business across municipal lines.

In other areas, it will mean radical reform such as refocusing the Department of Economic Security on getting people back on their feet.

In still other arenas, this approach will mean cutting spending while increasing investments in tradable research and development, solar tax credits and Science Foundation Arizona, which create economic growth, jobs and an increased tax base.

Raising taxes and blindly cutting spending are the traditional approaches to deficits. If they ever did work, they no longer do.

Our state’s central challenge is that we have a GM-era government in a Google age. Until we change that, we’ll keep on having GM’s bottom line.

Andrei Cherny, a former Arizona assistant attorney general, is president of the national public policy journal and think tank, Democracy.

State leaders failed to spur creation of the industries and jobs of the future, and to develop a more stable, modern tax system.’

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