As a candidate for Governor last year I repeatedly warned that our state’s irresponsible spending spree jeopardized our economic future. The argument was ignored by Gov. Napolitano, who ran “feel good” TV ads taking credit for a thriving economy her policies did nothing to create, while ignoring my critique that she had nearly doubled government spending during her four years in office. Today’s front-page story in the Tribune begins this way:
The state budget is running close to $600 million in the red. Gov. Janet Napolitano admitted Wednesday what Republican legislators have been saying for months: Arizona’s $10.6 billiion spending plan exceeds the revenue coming in. And that is exacerbated by the state starting the fiscal year July 1 with $225 million less left over from last year than anticipated.
The Governor’s response is typical — borrow money. This will be followed in short order by a proposal for some sort of tax increase, although it will be disguised as an effort to “close loopholes” used by those “evil” corporations or rich people, or both.
All of this is entirely predictable, including the quick disappearance of the so-called “Rainy Day Fund.”.
The prudent approach is one I suggested last year — a top to bottom review of state spending. Here is the ugly truth about Arizona’s budgeting process — funding decisions are made not based on a review of the need and effectiveness of particular state programs, but simply on the basis of how much money was received last year. In other words, legislators and the Governor typically approve percentage increases in thousands of state programs without ever evaluating (1) whether the program is still needed, and (2) whether it is accomplishing its stated purpose.
As a result of this overspending, we are tapping into our Rainy Day Fund … during a drought.