Special Session Alert: Deal or No Deal?

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Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Salvador Dali

The Arizona Guardian (subscription required) reports that efforts by the Accidental Governor and the GOP insane clown posse leadership's effort to ram a complicated state budget though the Legislature stalled Wednesday night after leaders couldn't come up with enough votes to get the package through the Senate Appropriations Committee. Oops! Somebody couldn't count votes.

A tentative agreement to redo the 2010 state budget hung by a thread late Wednesday, with Senate President Bob Burns conceding that he doesn't have the votes he needs. Both chambers delayed action until today. Sales-tax plan stalls state budget compromise, again

As has been the case for months, the biggest cause for heartburn among the majority GOP was a temporary sales-tax increase sought by Gov. Jan Brewer. The controversial tax referral was included as part of a fragile budget deal announced by Brewer and House Speaker Kirk Adams during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Burns didn't attend, and it soon became apparent that the proposal to close a $3.4 billion shortfall was hitting opposition among lawmakers in both parties.

Democratic legislators say the plan, which includes $650 million in tax cuts in future years, would only worsen the state's budget woes. Across the aisle, conservatives are balking at the plan's referral of a three-year sales-tax increase to the Nov. 3 ballot. They also insist that any money raised be devoted to reducing any state deficits, rather than going only to education, health care and public safety, as the plan now details.

The rise of opposition cast doubt on the plan's viability.

Democrats, who were left out of this agreement, said if Republicans intend to resume bipartisan budget talks to salvage a budget deal, there will be a price to pay.

"If they want to talk to us, we have a budget proposal from May, and we would start with that," said House Minority Leader David Lujan, D-Phoenix.

Umm, Dave, NO Democratic votes. Do not enable these Republicans, do not give them cover for this disaster of a budget. Period. Make the Republicans own this train wreck.

The Arizona Republic provides a helpful reminder of the critical deadlines I have previously written about.

There are a number of clocks ticking on approving a balanced budget for 2010. It already is one month overdue. Other looming deadlines:

• July 31 to refer ballot measures for a Nov. 3 special election. Elections officials say they need 96 days to prepare. [by statute]

• Mid-August for county treasurers to prepare property-tax bills. The temporary repeal of the state-equalization tax has lapsed; if lawmakers want to achieve their goal of permanently repealing this $250 million tax, they need to act by the middle of August.

• Sept. 30 to avert changes to various state programs approved by lawmakers June 30. They include no funding for the corporation and securities divisions of the state Corporation Commission; a funding lapse for state parks; and a repeal of a foreclosure law that realty agents fear could tap homeowners' personal assets.

The Arizona Daily Star weighs in with an editorial opinion that the "latest GOP budget plan is more irresponsible than [the] previous one." Hold on folks, the budget could get worse (emphasis mine):

Just when you thought things in Phoenix couldn't get worse, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer revealed they're close to agreement on an utterly egregious budget deal based on senseless economic reasoning.

That was late Tuesday. Wednesday night the Republicans adjourned, unable to cobble together enough votes to pass the measure. Let us all count our blessings.

"Our budget doesn't solve the problem," Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, actually told the Star's Daniel Scarpinato, in reference to the state's estimated $3.4 billion deficit.

But Burns said he believed proposals from Democrats were "further from solving the problem."

The Democrats, who have been mostly locked out of negotiations by the GOP majority, have offered two proposals, which can be viewed at www.strongerarizona.com online. A key element would be to raise new revenues by reducing the state sales tax and broadening its application.

The full GOP plan is not online, but Scarpinato put together details based on documents and interviews.

"It is despicable what this proposal will do to our state, to the citizens who live here," said Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson. "There is no regard for the citizens of this state."

The Arizona Education Network, which was formed this year to post factual, up-to-date information about education online, downgraded its forecast for education in Arizona from "bad" to "worse" based on the new plan.

Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat who is rumored to plan a run for governor in 2012, was moved to issue this statement late Tuesday:

"The Legislature and Governor's deal, if passed, ensures that Arizona will face massive deficits for years to come. That's not leadership. In fact, it guarantees billions in eventual cuts from education, public safety and child welfare. . . . Incredibly, rather than fixing our budget problem, this deal makes it even worse."

We agree. Here are some of the low points of the proposed agreement, as reported by Scarpinato:

• It would send a three-year temporary sales-tax increase to the voters late this year. Even assuming such a tax were approved, it's doubtful the state would collect any of the revenues in 2009.

• It would also ask voters to agree to suspend for three years the Voter Protection Act, thus allowing lawmakers to make cuts in voter-mandated programs. The Education Network warned online that education and health-care programs would be especially vulnerable.

• It would cut income taxes by $400 million beginning in 2012 for tax year 2011; the savings would be split between individuals and corporations.

• It would cap the state's spending for three years at 2009 levels. "This freeze would be maintained regardless of any enrollment growth in schools, senior services, et cetera," the Education Network noted online.

• It would re-enact the July 1 budget that Brewer originally vetoed; that plan cut agency and government programs by roughly $1 billion.

• The Associated Press reported Wednesday that lawmakers also were considering raising an estimated $735 million by selling the House and Senate buildings and dozens of other state properties, and leasing them for several years before buying them back.

To base a budget on revenue increases that cannot happen unless voters agree to tax themselves more is irresponsible. To layer tax cuts on top of that is also irresponsible. To use a chainsaw to cut spending on programs that affect children, the elderly, the ill and the state's economic future is irresponsible.

The Legislature should instead balance cuts with new, guaranteed revenue sources. But we're not holding our breath.

The Arizona Legislature has the ability to enact a balanced budget that imposes new taxes, reduces tax credits and exemptions, and yes, makes cuts to programs — without the delay and uncertaintly of punting these hard decisions to voters in a costly special election. Legislators can make these hard decisions and simply do the damn job for which we elected them to do.

There are two basic reasons why this does not occur: the two-thirds super-majority vote requirement (Prop. 108 in 1992) to raise taxes or to reduce tax credits or to eliminate exemptions. And the ideological anti-tax zealots (the Grover Norquist "no new tax" pledge Republicans) who use this requirement to engage in a tyranny of the minority to obstruct sane, fiscally responsible government.

The one measure which should be referred to the ballot to permit the voters an opportunity to restore fiscal sanity to this state is the outright repeal of Prop. 108 (1992). If the Legislature wants voters to suspend the Voter Protection Act (Prop. 105), legislators should insist that the outright repeal of Prop. 108 must also appear on the ballot. Make it a contingent deal, you do not get one without the other. And let the voters decide!

Call your state legislators and call the Accidental Governor (call 1-800-253-0883). Call TODAY!

NB: The dozen Democrats in the Senate need to stand firm. The Yellow Sheet (Arizona Capitol Times) reports that Sen. Ron Gould says he will not vote for the one-cent sales tax increase. Gould also says that Sen. Pamela Gorman and Sen. Jack Harper do not support the sales tax increase. This creates a 15-15 tie vote, which means the measure is defeated. The question is which one of these three Republicans will cave under pressure today or tomorrow?

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “The Arizona Legislature has the ability to enact a balanced budget that imposes new taxes, reduces tax credits and exemptions, and yes, makes cuts to programs…”

    Seriously, dude, you need to enroll in a reading comprehension program. I can take up a collection from the readers of this blog if that would help you out.

  2. Assuming that government budgets either can never or should never be cut when the private economy upon which it is dependent is a poor presumption.

    I imagine use of the term chainsaw when referring to government budget cuts is pretty reflexive by now. The contraction in the US doesn’t affect only people outside government. Exempting government from the effects is pretty elitist in my opinion.

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