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Saving the state’s budget: The Republicans’ plan

Saving the state’s budget: The Republicans’ plan

GOP tackles deficit without burdening state with tax hike

Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams

Arizona Republic

June 8, 2009

Arizona’s economy has been severely impacted by the worldwide recession. The recent decline in commercial activity is reflected in the state’s record-setting budget shortfall as demands for government spending continue to outpace the economy’s ability to generate tax revenues.

The original budget signed by former Gov. Janet Napolitano for fiscal 2009 has had to be repaired several times and has left the new governor and state Legislature with severely limited options.

But to govern is to choose. Your elected leaders have chosen carefully and wisely to manage the state’s finances in a manner that prepares government agencies for the near-term realities of the state’s tax collections, while doing no harm to an ailing and fragile economy upon which state government relies.

The budget the legislative majority passed takes necessary action to reduce the size of government. Like employers and households across Arizona, state government has to tighten its belt and prepare for what may very well be a long recession and slow recovery.

Opponents of the majority budget say it will decimate state services and education. This is simply not true. Our budget tackles the structural deficit without raising taxes, while continuing to fund essential state services and education out of the general fund. Our budget also directs additional funding toward those services and education with federal stimulus dollars.

The legislative-majority budget allows the state to operate at nearly 95 percent of its funding levels from fiscal 2009. Arizona households and employers have already adjusted their spending levels to deal with the poor economy more significantly than 5 percent. Families and businesses have had to do more with less. Government must, too.

We have taken measured steps toward significant tax reform and improved our potential for recovery by prospectively addressing excessive commercial and agricultural property taxes.

We avoided a property-tax increase that was intentionally programmed to reappear on taxpayers’ property-tax statements this fall. Raising taxes now will only exacerbate the situation, and we find it unconscionable to ask the people of this state to endure a tax increase on top of these already crippling economic times.

Clearly, the state’s deficit has hit historic lows, with only bad and worse solutions to balance the state budget. With so few options, we can learn from California, where voters refused a tax increase to help balance their budget, opting instead for further cuts to government programs.

Or look to Washington state, where they balanced their budget by cutting $4 billion in government spending over two years. In both states – and with a Democratic majority – voters and lawmakers alike recognized new taxes do not solve their budget problems.

We have long contended there have been no easy choices as we balanced this budget, but our solution is the best for Arizona.

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