Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Consider plan from Dems in drawing up state budget

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

Republicans, who hold majorities in both houses of the Arizona Legislature, are quietly working among themselves to draw up a budget for the red ink-stained fiscal year that begins July 1.

But they would be well advised to invite Democrats into the budget-writing process.

Even though Democrats are the minority party, their support probably will be needed to pass a budget. And Democrats in the House have budget-fixing ideas worth listening to.

At this point, any ideas to deal with the budget should be welcomed. The outlook for fiscal 2010 is grim indeed, with about a $3 billion projected deficit. There will have to be either $3 billion in cuts, $3 billion in new revenue or, most likely, a combination of the two.

Shut out of formal budget negotiations by Republicans, Democrats in the state House last week developed their own suggested fixes. While the entire package will require substantial analysis, several proposals stand out:

• In an earlier cost-cutting move, the Department of Revenue was forced to lay off 208 tax collectors and auditors to save $9 million. But that meant fewer people going after tax dodges, and the result was the loss of an estimated $150 million in revenue.

House Democrats say restoring that cut would more than pay for itself.

• Allowing the suspended state property tax to resume as scheduled would bring in $250 million. The tax was put on hiatus three years ago when the state had a surplus. It was never intended to be a permanent repeal. Do nothing, and it returns.

• Imposing a utility excise tax would bring in $233 million. Arizona exports more power than it imports, so much of this tax would be paid by out-of-state consumers of made-in-Arizona electricity. The average Arizona household would pay $1.25 per month.

• Increasing state income taxes on households making $250,000 or more per year would raise about $80 million.

The increased revenue would allow some service cuts to be reversed.

• There would be full funding for Child Protective Services – a critical move that would allow investigation of all complaints of abuse or neglect.

• It also would restore funding to Science Arizona, a strong supporter of biotech and other high-tech research in Arizona. Much of the research also is for lifesaving technology.

• The Democrats also would reverse Parks Department cuts so it could reopen several parks. The closures have been a financial blow, especially for rural communities.

Drawing up a budget is not a partisan exercise. This is when real statesmanship is needed – the ability to work across party lines for the good of the state.

With a budget situation as dire as that facing Arizona, all reasonable ideas must be considered – even if they come from Democrats.

House Democrats have ideas

to increase

revenue so cuts to


services could be reversed.

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