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Extending health benefits to domestic partners of government employees is a fiercely contentious issue. Arizona voters decided last year not to prohibit such benefits, but efforts to create them have come up empty in the state legislature.
No problem, says the Department of Administration, a state executive agency: we'll mandate insurance coverage for domestic partners of state employees and retirees by bureaucratic fiat. And it did just that in a proposed rule filed last November 30 to expand the term "dependent" to include domestic partners.
After five straight years of being flush with cash, Arizona faces a staggering deficit of about $1 billion. What went wrong?
Some analysts point to declining revenue. Revenue growth dropped from 7 percent last year to 1.6 percent this year. But declining revenue is only a piece of the puzzle. Most state economies have been slowing, but Arizona is one of the only states in the red.
In the opinion column "'Stimulus' and the States" (Wall Street Journal, April 24), Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano blames Congress for state budget deficits: "Even if the federal government paid up on only a few of its debts mentioned here, Arizona would not be in deficit this year."
Having spent like a drunken sailor in years of plentiful revenues, the state of Arizona now finds itself with a large and growing budget deficit. Like the mythical siren beckoning sailors to wreck their ships on dangerous shoals, Governor Janet Napolitano soothingly implores the legislature to bridge the fiscal gap by borrowing.
Like a suspenseful action movie that resolves all plot conflicts in the last fifteen minutes, the Legislature passed a budget just in the nick of time. Unlike after a good film, though, I'm left wondering what I waited for. The budget fails Arizonans on a number of fronts.
For one, the budget still isn't balanced. The assumption that only a $1.9 billion shortfall exists for 2009 is based on a rosy scenario of four percent revenue growth next year. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), a $2.2 billion spending gap is much more likely.
Despite the lineup at the trough in D.C. for bags of bailout dollars, I urge Gov. Janet Napolitano to resist seeking more federal tax money to help address Arizona's budget crisis. And I wrote her a letter telling her just that.
Arizona lawmakers and Gov. Brewer should heed the political fallout of the California ballot measures that failed in yesterday’s special election.
Voters were asked to approve five measures consisting of tax increases, new borrowing, and fund sweeps to help address California’s $42 billion budget deficit. All failed by wide margins. A sixth measure, one that prohibited a legislative pay raise when there’s a deficit, passed comfortably.
The most recent "economic stimulus" package the legislature is considering consists of tax subsidies for a chosen few. The good news is that the package as a whole lacks support. The bad news, however, is that parts of it may find their way into the final budget deal. They shouldn't.
Arizona's Voter Protection Act passed in 1998 (Prop 105) mandates that spending approved by initiative cannot be reduced by the Legislature. Thirty-five percent of Arizona's General Fund budget is voter-protected. The way to amend voter-protected spending is for three-fourths of the Legislature to vote to override a mandate. But there is more to the Voter Protection Act story, which is sometimes used as an excuse for not reducing spending when it needs to be.
A nearly perfect gauge of the wisdom and importance of a policy proposal is how loudly special-interest groups howl in opposition. By that measure, Proposition 101-the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act-must be a great idea.