Arizona State Senator Steve Pierce is a straight-talking cowboy. He is a third-generation Arizonan raised in a ranching family.
His election to the State Senate last year was a breath of fresh air. After losing Jake Flake, the legislature didn’t have a real cowboy to keep everyone honest. Steve Pierce has stepped into that role, and hasn’t pulled any punches.
He sent out an email that every Arizonan should read.
Here is our overall picture of the State’s budget in very simple terms. This is only concerning the small part of the budget the legislature controls. The over-all budget for Arizona is roughly $30 billion dollars and most of that flows from the feds thru the Governor’s office and the legislature never sees any of it or has any direction in where it is spent. The legislature controls under $10 billion in recent years. Today the revenue for 2010 is projected at $7.2 billion and spending is proposed at about $9.5 billion by the legislature and just over $10 billion by the Governor. We have voter mandated issues that were put in place through initiatives and approved by the voters through the years that dictates where money must be spent, specifically Prop 301 has built in increases in both spending and increased Taxes. You can do the math and see how bad things are. We are spending $2.3 BILLION more than we are taking in. Why? Because the will to live within our means is not there. Legislators bow to the crying of the strongest lobbies: education and health care.
Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM the legislature adjourned sine die and the session ended. It ended with the bills the Governor had requested and negotiated over the past 4 weeks. We approved the very bills she wanted and sent them to her to sign, aside from the sales tax referral. There simply aren’t the votes to get it out of committee let alone the full Senate. So because it didn’t have the Brewer tax referral, she vetoed things that wouldn’t shut down the State including all education funding. She said it was because the cuts were too deep in education but for 4 weeks she had agreed with those very cuts and we passed what she agreed to. The vetoes are not good for Arizona, not good for the Governor, and not good for anything.
The Governor has stated numerous times since she took office that she wanted her five point plan addressed that always ended with a temporary sales tax increase. The legislature responded that we could pass a 2010 budget without a tax increase and deal with the tax referral for the 2011 budget. We did this! We did what we had promised on June 4th, after we had already finished two separate budget adjustments on the 2009 budget that amounted to a $2.25 billion shortfall left by previous Governor Janet Napolitano. Governor Brewer tried mightily to prevent the legislature from passing a budget that didn’t raise taxes. She deployed her staff to try to keep Republicans from voting for a budget. She failed.
We did our job. We passed a budget that takes care of 2010. We fulfilled our Constitutional duty. But the governor has told us to start over – to start from scratch. She desperately wants a vote to raise sales taxes. I don’t know why she thinks her veto will garner more support for a tax increase, but that seems to be her plan.
In the special session, perhaps she will resort to bargaining with Democrats. This inevitably will lead to an increase in spending. As I stated above, we are broke. If this is her plan, it will further widen the structural deficit for 2011 and beyond. The Brewer Tax Increase is not necessary for 2010. She’s even admitted as much. I’m asking the governor to sign the 2010 budget and let’s begin the much-needed work on 2011. The debate about tax increases can begin then.
Unfortunately, lost in the battle over the sales tax increase is the fact that the legislature’s budget prevented property taxes from going up $335 million. That provision was also vetoed by Governor Brewer. Arizona taxpayers are going to feel a lot of pain under Brewer’s proposals. We need to rein in spending. It’s that simple. Taxpayers all over the state are tightening their belts and the State needs to do the same. The problem isn’t a lack of taxes, it’s a lack of spending control.