It is no consolation that virtually every other state in the nation is facing heap big budget deficits, nor is it that California is in worse shape than we are. It is the fact that, unlike California, there is hope for Arizona.
Both California and Arizona are in dire budgetary straits as a result of Democrat wild overspending. Hold it! I know what youâ€™re thinking, â€œbut the Republicans have controlled the state house for over forty years, how is it the fault of the Democrats?â€ Well, it is true that the Republicans have held a majority for decades, but that is not the same as control. During the Administration of Governor Napolitano, the Democrats were able to lure a number of squishy Republicans in to their camp, creating a virtual Democrat majority. Hereâ€™s an AZcentral.com blurb from from 2008 that includes Steve Gallardoâ€™s famous quotation:
“I like being in the majority.” – House Minority Whip Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.
For the second year in a row, a budget backed by the minority Democrats and Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano passed, with the help of a handful of Republicans.
So here we are.
What has changed in the Arizona legislature since the last election cycle is the nature of the Republicans. The squishes are pretty much gone. The Republicans are in firm control of both houses. Republicans now in the legislature will not be seduced, cajoled, or intimidated by the Democrats, the Arizona Republic, or the Arizona Daily Star from cutting spending back to levels commensurate with revenues. The sweeping of funds, accounting tricks, property sales, even Governor Brewerâ€™s sales tax increase were not enough to close the huge deficit gap.
Be prepared for much hysteria, name calling, and condemnations from the affected parties. Every agency will claim that any cuts will result in apocalyptic future disasters from short sighted cutting of â€œinvestmentâ€.
University of Arizona president Robert N. Shelton is an example. In his recent State of the University address, he used phrases like â€œWhen malevolent people talk about wanting to dismantle and destroy great universities,â€ and â€œWhen you listen to those guys, itâ€™s like “Groundhog Day” meets “A Nightmare on Elm Street”! â€“ Bill Murray meets Freddie Krueger. (And please understand, Iâ€™m playing the Bill Murray character â€“ I keep repeating myself, and they keep slashing people with knives!)â€. Bear in mind that this is the language of a fancy pants $550,000 a year university president at an official function.
Sheltonâ€™s miffed because his state general fund appropriation has been cut by about $100 million over the last few years. He adds, â€œyet we have key legislators who have stated publicly â€“ with straight faces, I might add â€“ that we have been untouched and spared any significant cuts…â€
I suspect that you may be wondering how the â€œuntouched and spared any significant cutsâ€ can be made? Or maybe you just think that Shelton is right and the legislators are lying morons. Well, we can always check the facts. The Fiscal Year Reports from the Arizona Legislature web site show the state general fund cuts in appropriations to the University of Arizona as Shelton stated, but the more relevant figures are those showing total revenue; FY 2007 – $1.211 billion, FY 2008 – $1.266 billion, FY 2009 $1.305 billion, FY 2010 – $1.333 billion. Yes, itâ€™s true, though the state appropriations make up a smaller percentage of total revenues, the total revenues of the University of Arizona have increased annually over the last few years. You might even say that it has been â€œuntouched and spared significant cutsâ€.
So, if you are a legislator, and you can cut an appropriation to an agency without reducing its total revenue, might that agency be a good candidate such cuts?
The real beauty here is that the legislators stated the facts, did the right thing, and are not intimidated by deceitful university presidents or anyone else. This is what Arizona needs if we are to fix the budget, recover and prosper.
And what of California? Well, the people of the Golden State elected the same people who precipitated its financial crisis. The Democrats still have a lock on the legislature, and with the election, yet again, of Governor Jerry Brown, there appears to be no adults in authority.
So be grateful that there is hope and change in Arizona, and pray for California.