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We need voters advice on taxation, spending

President Bob Burns contributed a column to this past Sunday’s Viewpoints in the Arizona Republic. Read about his focus for this legislative session:

Arizona state government is in critical condition. The fundamentals upon which our economy relies is on life support. Nearly 300,000 Arizonans lost their jobs in the past two years, representing 10.7 percent of the workforce.

Our major industries and employers are suffering severe impacts from the downturn. The immediate need right now is to stop the bleeding and stabilize the patient.

The economy is failing to produce revenue at levels it had in previous years. Our spending authorization is now just below $10 billion. Yet revenue is only at $6.4 billion. Simply put, what’s coming in isn’t enough to cover what we planned for agencies to spend. We need to revise the plan.

In our latest special session, we reduced spending by more than $190 million, but we still have a $1.4 billion cash deficit in this fiscal year. Wishing it were different won’t change the reality that previous decisions and a failing economy have left us few viable options.

The most promising solution to this dire situation is for the Legislature to reset current authorized-spending levels, which become meaningless if the money is not there to support them.

It is also important to consult with Arizona’s voters. We need their advice – through ballot measures – to tell us their priorities on taxation and spending and their willingness to provide the Legislature with the flexibility we need to solve this problem.

There is a lot of work to be done in a number of policy areas that would improve Arizona’s vitality, including a concerted effort to remove obstacles to job growth and economic development.

However, we must not lose focus on the immediate crisis. The emergency room is not the right time or place to lecture the patient on the value of proper diet and exercise.

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