GOP’s Budget Plan: Do Less with Less

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GOP legislative leaders have made their opening offer in the 2008 budget battles. They want to slash hundreds of millions from state programs including education.

Faced with a deficit of roughly $800 million, Gov. Napolitano is proposing financing school construction over the useful life of the buildings (just like a mortgage) to save almost $400 million versus upfront cash financing, taking $300 million from the rainy-day fund, and making up any additional shortfall from operating cost efficiencies and program cuts.

The legislative Budget Committee chairs are having none of it. They want to address all of the shortfall by slashing spending to critical programs and then pile another property tax cut on top of that.

House Budget Chairman Russell Pearce reacted to the Governor’s proposal saying, "I see no cuts, no fixes." It’s as if he can’t imagine fixing the budget any other way except simply cutting the state to the bone.

Senate Budget Chairman Bob Burns admitted that Arizona has a "structural deficit," yet he proposes only spending cuts and further tax cuts to address the issue.

But where exactly do you cut when your per capita tax collections are already among the very lowest in the nation? In 2005, Arizona’s overall tax collections per capita was 45th in the nation. Not much has changed. Where is all the fat to trim when you are already collecting less taxes per person than all but four other states, and most of those have massive resource extraction or gambling revenues keeping personal taxes low, or negligible populations to serve?

Where do GOP leaders want the axe to fall heaviest? On education, of course. Education is the biggest line item in the state budget, so if you want to cut hundreds of millions, you can’t avoid hitting education.

But with Arizona’s educational per capita funding already the very bottom in the nation, they would only further cripple the future of Arizona’s children. They are sacrificing the state’s future, and that of our children, on an ideological altar of tax cuts and irrational hostility to state spending.

GOP legislative leaders want large and permanent cuts in our state universities, undermining our economy and our competitiveness in the national economy. They also wants to suspend new building and land acquisitions for our burgeoning community colleges. Business leaders should be stunned and disgusted, but instead they are cheering the GOP on as they dismantle our future.

The GOP wants eliminate state general assistance to local education as well as eliminate the state property tax levy for equalization funding, making our primary and secondary schools poorer and less equitable, and pushing an even heavier burden on counties and school districts which will have to lean even more upon local property tax revenues. Property taxes are already inspiring Prop-13-style tax revolts in Arizona. But GOP leaders just cite fear of such movements succeeding as reasons to eliminate state equalization levies permanently!

They’ll also slash new programs for teaching math and science, and even punt poor kids off of state health insurance to save a few short-sighted bucks. We know that every dollar spent now on health care for kids saves the state ten or more later on. Instead of investing in our people, he GOP is being penny wise and pound foolish. This isn’t fiscal prudence, it’s simply irresponsible.

The GOP even threw in their pipe-dream of paying for some of the highway patrol’s operating expenses with gasoline taxes, which is not allowed by the Arizona Constitution. So $100 million of their pipe-dream fire-sale budget relies on Arizona’s citizens being willing to change our constitution to allow gasoline taxes to be siphoned off from road improvements and maintenance to general fund expenses.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

Correction: State Rep. Tom Prezelski points out that, in fact, safety and enforcement of highway regs can be funded with the fuel tax. One has to be careful to only use the money for patrol operations and not other DPS functions.

The GOP’s proposed solution to the budget crisis is worse that the problem, and takes advantage of the state’s budget woes to try to lard on $250 million more in property tax cuts. Their ideas are as bankrupt as their budget.

If this is an example of the statesmanship that Tim Bee hopes will carry him into Congress, he had better start to reign in his Chairmen’s overreaching.

1 COMMENT

  1. We as a Nation of Laws better start enforcing those laws and I don’t mean just on Illegal Aliens!

    This year you and I will see a financial collapse that will make 1929 look like a walk in the park!

    The GAO has warned Congress and given very specific reasons that are being ignored by the media and Congress hoping you and I will NOT notice this until after the Elections!

    When the American public can not buy a tank of gas for there cars or a can of peas to feed there family they MIGHT begin to say something is wrong?!

    A CURRENCY CRISIS is at hand as the CEO of GOLDMANN SACHS that dealt in two sets of books as he managed the Chinese trade and currency IS now Secretary of The Treasury folks!

    This unfortunatly is another BUSH storyline that we have seen to many times!

    I have had extensive converations with GLOBAL Elets asking if what Iam seeing is just me or is it REAL??!!

    Its REAL FOLKS in the next few months you will see the need to remove the Dollar as a currency from Petro Dollars to The Euro but the Bottom line is the REMOVAL of The Dollar to replace it as QUICKLY as possible with the AMERO balancing the Mexican Currency and American Dollar with the Canadian Currency; and this Global Petro Crisis will lay the foundation to do just that!

    You may say “So What?”

    You will feel it in LOWER SOCIAL SECURITY PAYMENTS” if you get them at all and reduced Healthcare if we are still a sovern country and the next President (If we still have elections in 2008 after the currency collapse)initiates National Healthcare that is the final nail in the Coffin taking every Right granted to you and me in our Constitution AWAY; making us wards of the State and beggers that the eletes in Congress will control Life and Death situations that remove competion from the health equation!

    The Movie 1984 has finally come in 2008!

  2. Same old BLA-BLA-BLA taxing the HOMEOWNER and The ARIZONA TAXPAYER to pay for ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS in our SCHOOLS!!!

    This has NOTHING to do with the Politics of The Democratic or Republican Party! Its your and my right as a LEGAL American Citizen to say for “God Sakes we are a humane and tolerant people but enough is enough!”

    When are you folks going to get get a clue that we in Arizona especially the Property Tax Payers can no longer afford to educate millions of kids of Illegal Aliens in our public schools on the front line of the 20 Million Illegal’s and the 80 million ready to enter our country when amnesty is granted as I predict it will be next year by the next President!

    I would love to say we as a Nation can educate the World , but lets have the World at least give us a helping hand here!

    Today The Catholic Church, The AFL-CIO and The United States Chamber of Commerce are all advocating that you and I must pay for the continued INVASION of Illegal Aliens into our Society and if we as Taxpayers lift a finger to stop it as MIKE put it to me “WE ARE RACISTS!”

    Tuesday Sheriff Clarence Dupnik will go before The Pima County Board of Supervisors and plead a case to Deputize The Border Patrol Agents that are working WITH his Border Crime Unit that DOES NOT target Illegal Immigrants but gets the drug pushers and illegal smugglers off our backs as American Citizens!

    Guess who is front and center AGAINST this effort to ENFORCE THE RULE OF LAW??!!

    Father Kinkanas The Catholic Bishop of Tucson, The Tucson Chamber of Commerce and The AFL-CIO along with the usual bunch of nut jobs like Raul Grijalva, Isabelle Garcia, Richard Elias,Margo Cowan,and your friend and mine Ernesto Portillio of The Arizona RED Star!

    Mike is among the supporters of Illegal Immigration but I believe Mike has a different set of reasons!

    As a Buyer for The Kroger Company (Frys Food Stores) for over 20 years in the Produce Buying Office I saw the need for crops and Agriculture workers in a SEASONAL BUSINESS along our Border with Mexico that ROTATES CROPS during the Winter and Summer Months that feeds our Nation and the World; I GET THAT!!

    I support as noted in The Tucson Citizen in Feb. of 2006 by an article written by Blake Morlock, a guest worker program for jobs in the United States such as Agriculture that demand a labor intense work force that is MOBILE and can be used in BOTH MEXICO and the UNITED STATES to pick highly perishable Produce and get it shipped quickly!

    Where I disagree is where alot of people get this Guest Worker Program as a “IMMEDIATE Path To Citizenship” come hell or high water!!!!!

    I have worker for over 50 years in Union jobs in Southern Arizona that have been DEPRESSED in both pay and the quality of the work because of Illegal Immigration!

    The same job being done in California was paying as high as EIGHT (8) Dollars an hour MORE because The Companies said they could use the cheap Mexican Labor and did NOT need to pay the going wage!

    This is what IS WRONG with CAFTA and NAFTA as signed into law by Bill Clinton; NO UNION NEGOTIATED CONTRACTS OR WORKER GUARENTEES WERE INCLUDED!!

    So you see the results ; Slave Labor in China sending you and me poisoned food products , tainted dry goods , and a basic across the board bunch of CHINESE JUNK available at your local Wal Mart at your and my expense because WE ARE THE PROBLEM FOLKS!! WE ARE THE RACITS FOLKS!!

    WE ARE THE FOOLS WHO MADE THIS COUNTRY WHAT THE THIRD WORLD NOW WANTS TO TAKE FROM US ; AND WE BETTER NOT SAY A WORD OR WE ARE RACISTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Forgot to add that I’m glad Karlmajales agrees that Giffords is ABUSING the system. Maybe we should hold all our public officials to a standard of law which, I think, the public dictates.

  4. I think the Governor had something to do about passing a budget based on pro-growth ideas. I blame them all, all who have courted the developers in this state and refused to listen to those who knew there were flaws in the growth model.

    And now we see the recurring problems at the local and state level that revenue just isn’t panning out. It would be funny, like the cigar the blows up in someone’s face in the old movies, unfortunately our kids are the ones suffering from this major wrong turn in modern civic planning. Maybe it’s time to really start thinking of sustainability not based on growth and the whims of the almighty pro-growth lobby.

    Glad to see that you agree that Giffords is abusing the system though.

  5. First, CCBurro, RIGHT ON. Republicans typically spout off that rather than fund programs we would be able to save a ton by cutting the waste…they never offer where and typically raise a “straw man” or some isolated example as a reason to cut everything. For instance, in education, some argue that rather than fund education and new schools we should just fire the administrators. First, I doubt that even firing all the administrators would not provide enough to make us competitive with the rest of the country. Second, administrators are necessary often and most provide important executive leadership. I never here any of them saying that we should cut all the corporate boards and leadership…or that this is wasteful.

    To Rick:

    Bashing franking will get you nothing. This is the oldest program of abuse that is used by both parties. It is such a no-starter that it just doesn’t start anymore (Yogi Berra???).

    Gonna have to do better than that.

    How’s this for some criticism. Under Tim Bee’s watch and leadership, our state has gone into hock by $800 to $1.2 Billion dollars. It is because they have cut back taxes so much under the theory that it will bring more growth and revenues. Well…the theory doesn’t work when you cut govt so much that no corporation would want to move here.

  6. “If you know of some, let us all know–go after it–weed it out!”

    ccburro, I can come up with one case, federal however and has nothing to do with Mr. Bryan’s good article on the state budget. Giffords seems to be taking advantage with her “franking” recently. Quite blatantly too.

    “Dec 14th Complaint on Giffords’ Abuse of Franked Mailing Privileges” http://thinkrightaz.blogspot.com

    Waste and Abuse of a system, yes. Fraud, that’s an oppinion you’ll have to make.

  7. I am sick and tired of these guys who spout about the “waste, fraud, and abuse” in government programs without providing specifics. Isn’t the job of the legislature to oversee the executive branch? NO ONE supports government waste, fraud, or abuse. If you know of some, let us all know–go after it–weed it out! Otherwise, stop making accusations without facts. [I wish these same Republicans would rail on about and deal with the confirmed “waste, fraud, and abuse” in spending in Iraq…]

  8. A great post Michael. The GOP continues to use the third rail of American politics (raising taxes) against Democrats who fear raising them. Although in this state it is difficult given the Constitutional supermajority needed to do it.

    The GOP has provided over poor fiscal responsibility. They have used failed ideological theory to cut taxes in order to increase revenues (via growth) but fail to see that once you cut back too far, you break the curve and get less growth and less revenue. Economic development doesn’t happen when there are poor schools, poor roads, poor transportation, and a poor quality of life. All face Southern Arizona.

    We raise tuition at the university because the budget for the university has not increased at a level to meet the needs of our students and that of the state. The middleclass who sees it more difficult to pay for college need only look to the fact that we are 2nd to last in student aid and our education budgets are extremely low. Students from poor family face the prospect of working multiple jobs and/or not finishing college once they start. The wealthy…well their families pay for it…because they can.

    If Democrats can effectively make this case in 2008 they have a shot at taking back the legislature. The $800 million dollar deficit, which is likely to increase to $1.2 billion is on the heads of the fiscal management of this legislature.

    Tim Bee’s election hangs on his record. Like it or not, he has presided over this mess…and if he doesn’t get us out of it with smart fiscal policy, then he will have little to no chance of beating Giffords.

  9. Healthcare Group, the program to assist small businesses with healthcare coverage for their employees is likely toast, if the Repubs have their way. Why is it that small business owners should support Republicans again?

  10. Tom, Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate the information.

    Spartan, name one program that has mandated budgeting that is “wrought with waste, fraud and abuse.” Rhetorical generalities are easy; actually identifying wasteful spending, not so much.

  11. Thank you, Mr. Bryan for your analysis.

    However, you made a little error. The comment about using the fuel tax (the HURF, more or less) to pay for the DPS was incorrect. Actually, this is specifically permitted in Article 9, Section 14 of the Arizona Constitution (“…expenses of state enforcement of traffic laws and state administration of traffic safety programs…”). When this has been done in the past, the legislature has been specific that the fuel tax money was to be used specifically for the highway patrol function of the DPS and not other functions, such as the crime lab or the anti-gang task force, in order to remain within the Constitution.

    Oddly enough, the Constitution specifies that this money can be used to support Arizona Highways Magazine, though, in fairness, they largely have not needed such a subsidy in decades.

    I am not pointing this out just to be pedantic, though I am, but to show why I have little faith in the ability of the House leadership to deal with this crisis in a mature fashion. A few years back, this Governor temporarily shifted money from the HURF to pay for DPS operations to help cover a shortfall. The Republicans groused about this for quite some time, arguing that the integrity of the fund had to be preserved. Now, some of those same individuals are arguing in favor of that same idea as a fix.

    Why was it a bad idea then and a good idea now? Simple, back then, it was the Governor’s idea, now it’s their idea. See, in the House, it’s not about solving the State’s problems, but fighting the Governor.

    Whether or not Representative Pearce actually read the Governor’s proposal is irrelevant because his reaction would have been the same regardless of what it said. There were actually many cuts, as well as proposals to consolidate and eliminate numerous boards and commissions. But these ideas were not important, a flippant quote for the press was.

    Given Pearce’s rhetoric, it appears that some people have learned nothing from the experience of last year. If Arizona is to get past this crisis, we will have to look toward the Senate and the Governor for leadership and not the House.

  12. The problem about a “structural” deficit is true. The legislature controls very little of the State budget, something like less than 25%. The rest is mandated spending through referendum or State Constitution.

    What needs to happen is that mandated spending should sunset every 10 years and should have to be re-voted on by the voters of AZ. Many of the programs that receive mandatory spending are wrought with fraud, waste and abuse. Many others have contributed no to little impact on quality of life or have failed to do what they were supposed to. Why should we keep funding these failing State programs?

    The legislature and the Governor really have their hands tied when it comes to the budget, as always the case in AZ, mob rules.