Session ends on a good note

July 1, 2008 by  

Late Friday night, June 27th, at literally the last possible moment before session ended, the Senate voted to send the Marriage issue to the ballot in November.

Now the people of Arizona will decide whether marriage should be defined as a union between one man and one woman in Arizona rather than politicians or the courts.

This was the lone bright spot the last few days of the session, especially since the much discussed ’09 budget had just passed and the mood of the Republican majority was gloomy.

Here’s what happened: The Thursday before session end the House voted out the 2009 budget that had passed the Senate, largely without Republican support. The budget plan that passed was devised by the Governor and Democrats. A few liberal Republicans in each chamber enabled it to pass, but let there be no doubt – this was no bi-partisan budget, which is why I voted against it.

It is disturbing that elected representatives and our Governor thought so little of the future of our state to pass such a fiscally irresponsible budget! It is equally disturbing that we were barraged by computer-generated e-mails from constituents urging support of it, claiming it was a responsible budget.

I have to wonder if they actually knew what was in this budget deal if they would feel the same way! More than likely, they hadn’t seen it.

What exactly is responsible about…

  • Putting the state $2 billion further in the red rather than first using the entire rainy day fund?
  • Using accounting gimmicks to “balance” the budget while barely cutting government spending? (It included only 3% spending cuts, and much less of a total % if one counts the millions of Federal $$$ and grants the large agency budgets contain!)
  • Shifting state obligations and increasing fees onto the taxpayers, cities & counties have cut their budgets by up to 10% or more?
  • Obligating the state to hefty new spending for all-day kindergarten buildings and expecting to pay for it with photo radar revenue?
  • Subjecting our state to the threat of expensive lawsuits by exceeding our constitutional debt limit by both excessive borrowing and the K-12 rollover gimmicks?
  • Setting off the “poison pill” by expanding the lottery to fund new university buildings to the tune of $1 Billion? We will likely see gambling throughout Arizona by violating the Native American gaming compact agreement.
  • Putting speeders on the hook for generating revenues for new spending by greatly expanded photo enforcement? Photo radar is an effective means of reducing accidents and injuries, and I support it, but with this policy public safety is of secondary importance since it eliminates any use or reporting of photo radar violations for points or for insurance purposes. Also, the counties will pick up all court costs involved as none of the revenues generated would offset them!
  • Eliminating abstinence education programs proven to reduce teen pregnancy in Arizona and rejecting federal matching funds, as well? [Thankfully, Interim Director January Contreras reversed the decision to accept Federal matching funds for this school year, allowing private monies to meet the state funding match obligation.]
  • Cutting adoption/permanent guardianship programs when an average 500 children in foster care in Arizona ‘age-out’ of the system each year without being permanently placed?
  • Cutting education voucher programs for foster care and disabled students, saving the state money and providing appropriate education for these students?
  • Freezing AHCCCS reimbursement rates to hospitals – which in practice transfers costs to the private insured?
  • Cutting Developmentally Disabled, some of the most vulnerable of our citizens off from interim health care before their medicare eligibility kicks in?

Why did this happen? In brief, we didn’t have enough conservative legislators in the Senate that supported cutting wasteful government spending.

In the House, we had the opposite problem. The House of Representative had negotiated a better budget with the Senate (until the very end). It demanded $300 million more lump sum spending cuts to be determined by the agency directors, who are aware of where they can handle them. It also involved bonding for new school construction, but avoided “smoke in mirrors” roll-overs, used the rainy day funds, did not cut K-12 funds nor commit the state to NEW spending programs and kept wise reforms such as education vouchers, marriage skills and abstinence education programs in place.

The problem arose when a few Legislators on the right objected to the House budget on the grounds it wasn’t conservative enough!

So who lost out? YOU – the citizens of the State of Arizona.

For further info: See the Americans for Prosperity article, “AFP calls AZ ’08 Session ‘Worst in Memory‘ ” and the Legislative Wrap-up from the Center for Arizona Policy

What’s to come? Most likely, we will be called into special session to face the continuing shortfall – and amend this budget. Next year there will not be any more gimmicks to use, so some will push to raise taxes. I expect that might happen at the ballot since the 2/3 votes needed in the legislature will be tough to gather. Also, there may be the political will for substantive initiative reform so the legislature can freeze some of the mandated spending increases during fiscal crises. We’ll see.

While I’m relieved the session is over – overall I am not proud of the fiscal work this legislature approved. This is an election year – and a great opportunity to work for and elect conservative state legislators in every district who will act in the best interest of this state fiscally. People who will not put party, ideology or self-interest before sound public policy.

At the national level – we battle many of the same issues only the Federal Government can print money as needed! We desperately need ear-mark, consumer-directed healthcare and social security reforms, fiscal restraint and business-friendly tax policies that will enable economic prosperity – not added government programs promising unsustainable entitlements.

I hope you will join me in supporting candidates who will help us live within our means.

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