How does a governor get to the head of the class? Ask neighboring Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado. Since 1999, Gov. Owens (a past Goldwater Institute speaker) has practiced fiscal responsibility: actively holding the line on spending and even cutting income, capital gains and business property taxes. This is the equivalent of going home to study every night after class it's not fun, and you forego a lot of playtime with your friends, but in the end it pays off. In Gov. Owens' case, it has earned him an 'A' in the Cato Institute's Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors: 2004 (an honor he also earned in 2002). His high marks, determined by a mixture of 15 policy variables reflecting spending, revenue and tax rates, are no doubt largely due to Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a sort of automatic fiscal disciplinary measure which mandates that spending cannot grow faster than inflation plus population, and automatically refunds all surplus revenue back to taxpayers. Passed by voters 1992, think of this constitutional institution as saying to the state government, "Don't spend more than you need, or else you're grounded!"
Our own Governor Janet Napolitano, however, apparently could stand to take some notes; she scored a 'D' in the report. In her two years, Gov. Napolitano has overseen a nearly 24 percent increase in spending, and has failed to institute any kind of tax reform. However as a "freshman" (this is how the newest class of governors are classified in the report, as opposed to their "senior" counterparts), she still has time to turn her record around. But she's not in it alone. While Arizona has always been a beneficiary of California's remedial fiscal performance, she should keep in mind that another freshman governor, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has apparently been hitting the books he also earned an 'A'.