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Senate President Burns expresses concerns about state debt

In a Feb. 22, 2010 statement, Senate President Bob Burns described his concerns regarding the problem of Arizona’s growing debt:

“As our state suffers through this current budget crisis, much of the attention has been focused on shrinking revenues and program and agency cuts. What people don’t seem to be talking about is our growing debt.

Looking ahead to the next fiscal year, our state’s budget includes a General Fund debt of $3.8 billion, including new debt of $300 million in sale/leaseback of state buildings, $450 million in future lottery proceeds and a K-12 rollover of $602 million. Another $350 million K-12 rollover is expected to be approved soon. The budget crisis is causing many lawmakers, myself included, to make decisions we hate to make.

Our budget options are limited, and burdening our future generations with debt would not have been my first choice. Voter initiatives that limit the Legislature’s control of certain expenditures, along with a lack of will in the Senate and House to make deeper budget cuts, give us no choice but to accumulate new debt, or we would be forced to start paying Arizona’s bills with IOUs.

Paying off debt goes to the front of the line. Debt now becomes a bigger priority than paying for the state’s other priorities, including funding for our most vulnerable populations.

Rather than paying as we go, the Legislature has adopted a pay later policy. Taxpayers will be responsible for this choice long after the lawmakers have left office.”

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