Mesa's projected $40 million budget shortfall is being called "Armageddon" and "Apocalypse" by city council members, as if the deficit were an unexpected calamity foisted onto the city from above.
The impending deficit, however, is the result of one thing: irresponsible budgeting. City officials set a budget without having the revenue to cover costs.
Moreover, the city's priorities are questionable. Consider that nearly one-quarter of Mesa's prospective deficit is for funding art and museums. However desirable, art is hardly a public safety or health issue.
Hundreds of privately funded organizations across the state-from the Phoenix Zoo to the Goldwater Institute-raise their budgets through ticket sales and donations. Certainly the Mesa Arts Center could raise its nearly $5 million budget from willing patrons.
Rather than correct its misdeeds, the city wants taxpayers to bail it out. If approved, a proposed referendum would raise sales taxes and initiate a new property tax. Failing that, the city may impose a "secondary property tax" that would not require voter approval.
Heaven knows Mesa's "Armageddon" is the direct result of poor city management. City managers have a responsibility to chart a better course.
-Policy Review: "I Hear America Singing: The Arts Will Flower without the NEA"
-RAND Corporation: "Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts"
- East Valley Tribune: "Mesa grapples with budget issues"
Smoking is a dirty habit, and unhealthy too.
But are these reasons enough for government to infringe on fundamental, constitutional property rights?
Apparently so in Flagstaff, which recently joined Mesa, Tempe, and localities around the country to ban smoking in privately owned restaurants and bars. Flagstaff officials plan to go a step further and restrict smoking on sidewalks, where smokers have sought refuge since the ban went into effect in May, outside such establishments. And, groups like Arizonans Concerned About Smoking have their hopes set on a statewide smoking ban.
While advocates claim bans protect non-smokers and bar employees from secondhand smoke, the evidence that secondhand smoke causes illness is controversial at best, as Robert Levy documented in a 2002 Goldwater Institute study.
The fundamental issue, however, is the right of bar and restaurant owners to decide how to run their businesses. Imposing the wishes of anti-smoking advocates on bar and restaurant owners violates their property rights, rights that have enabled them to build successful businesses in the first place.
And smoking bans fail to recognize that employees and customers are adults who can assess the risks of working at or patronizing businesses that permit smoking.
In a free society that respects private property, business owners, not government, ought to decide how to operate their bars and restaurants.
- Arizona Daily Sun: "Sidewalk bar smoking targeted"
-Goldwater Institute study: Arizona's Anti-Tobacco Crusade: Smoke Free or Free to Smoke?
-Study: Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98
-Cato Institute report: Secondhand Smoke: Facts and Fantasy
- Washington Post: "D.C. Should Keep the Freedom in Smoke-Free"
Thanks largely to an increase in individual income tax receipts, state tax collections topped $1 billion in April, leaving the state flush with cash.
The Legislature had adopted a measure directing excess taxes into the state's rainy day fund, but the governor vetoed that saving measure.
The governor's budget adviser suggests the money is needed for the "state's basic and most critical needs." Like such "critical needs" as classes for state employees in "self-massage, tai chi," and "surviving the supermarket"? Please.
The budget has increased nearly 35 percent since Napolitano took office. There is clearly money to spare, money that should rightly be returned to the people who earned it.
-Wellness Classes for State Employees
-Arizona FY2006 Budget
-Goldwater Institute study: The Time is Now: A Taxpayer Bill of Rights for Arizona
-Wall Street Journal: "America's Next Tax Revolt" (subscription)
The Arizona Republic reported this week that charter schools are a failed reform according to an ASU study, Charter Schools' Performance and Accountability: A Disconnect.
The real disconnect, however, is that the ASU study provides no recent evidence that Arizona charter schools are failing. On the contrary, the ASU study relies on an outdated, 1999 ASU Morrison Institute report that actually found the state's "charter schools are not performing very differently from other public schools."
Since then, a majority of research shows charter school students outperforming their peers in traditional public school, including a 2005 meta-analysis of 38 studies - all published since 2000. Among that research is a 2004 Goldwater Institute study that found students in Arizona charter schools typically begin with lower test scores but show overall annual achievement growth roughly three points higher than traditional students. Charter students who complete the 12th grade surpass their public school peers on SAT-9 Reading tests.
These results square with findings from such leading research organizations as the Brookings Institution, the Progressive Policy Institute, and Harvard University. It's time ASU get connected.
- Arizona Republic: "Charter schools failing on reform goals, ASU study concludes"
-2005 Meta-analysis: Charter School Achievement: What We Know
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