Arizona’s budget woes equal those of most other states. Republicans have been as prodigal as Democrats. The cries about the parsimoniousness of GOP legislators were phony. Bottom line, everybody maxed the credit cards and overdrew the account.
Both parties had help from a variety of special interests who over the years used and abused the initiative process to nickel-dime the budget process and allocate various pieces of sales tax and lottery proceeds for specific items. This helped cause much of Arizona’s red ink.
Worse, we decided in one of our Transylvanian peasant moments to burn the legislative castle by removing the power to legislate from our legislature over ANYTHING that was passed by the voters. There are many items those we elect simply cannot touch and will presumably go on into infinity unless they are once again placed on the ballot. It’s time to do just exactly that.
Only about $3 billion of Arizona’s $17 billion budget is accessible for any modifications by a legislature and governor charged with balancing the budget. Governor Napolitano’s last budget, passed by all Democrats and a handful of Republican defectors, was a Mickey Mouse example of bad governance. Democrat leaders defended it, proclaiming any budget is all right with them, supporting such mockeries of fiscal sense as higher pimping of lottery tickets, phony speeding tickets admittedly written not for safety but revenue, and pillaging accounts containing funds raised for specific items being held in trust by state government. A private bank would have been criminally prosecuted.
It appears we will get a new governor, Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who joins a new and more Republican legislature in January. New public officials normally get a grace period. I have laid off President-elect Obama at least until he’s sworn in. Democrats abandoned this ancient courtesy and are already sliming Brewer, not even waiting until the official announcement of her takeover occurs.
Two things are clear. Brewer will be more conservative than Napolitano, and the legislature will not only be more Republican but also more conservative. Most GOP flakes who voted for that last budget were replaced. Stuff like all-day kindergartens and Eloy Sportsparks are probably beyond our reach. Tax hikes aren’t the answer in a shrinking economy and current tax revenues are shrinking anyway. New spending must be curtailed.
That won’t be enough. Republican legislators will need to think outside the box. The voters were dumb enough to put them in when they converted them to onlookers on initiative measures. It’s time for a massive special election devoted to reconsideration of over a decade’s worth of voter decisions. Everything from Clean Elections to sales tax and lottery assignments should go on one long ballot and voted on as soon as possible. Let the special interest groups, some of which I support, be forced to again justify their programs.
The Governor, and the leaders of both houses, should inform us of the need to reconsider those items we have approved. Give the voters the menu. Tell them that failure to remove some or all prior approvals will result in higher taxes and fees. Let the big spenders and special interests whine — they can again go out and campaign to keep their programs.
Legislators would hardly be copping out by placing before the voters items they have no control over, and the Governor would be propelled to national significance for the attempt. Democrats could easily be painted as anti-democracy. This election would have a high turn-out.
Most important, more than helping resolve fiscal problems, we’d actually have a real framework of governance to judge in the 2010 election.
Listen to Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays 1-4 p.M. On Inside Track, KVOI 690AM.