Biased Arizona Budget Effort Reporting – AZ Republic does no service

Attacks on Legislature’s Budget Work Unfair

Sylvia Allen, Steve Pierce, and Al Melvin

Arizona Republic

September 15, 2009

As freshman legislators, we were thrust into the chaos of the worst economic deficit in state history. We quickly learned it was not business as usual at the Capitol and most veteran lawmakers and observers were in uncharted territory.

We are in a crisis, which by definition includes opposition and instability caused by excessive stress that endangers the continuity of a group. There is enough drama in a “normal” session. In these tumultuous times, it is incumbent upon the media to resist temptations to further inflame the public with apples-to-oranges comparisons of this session to others.

The Sept. 6 editorial package (“What went wrong with the budget”) and Mary Jo Pitzl’s front-page story (“In budget session, disorder was rule”) blurred the lines of news and editorial, lacked context and were not accurate portrayals of this legislative session. Sure, it has been hectic and frustrating, but their depiction of total mayhem is a disservice to Arizonans who rely on The Republic for factual, unbiased information.

It is easy to criticize from the sidelines, but questioning our dedication and calling us uncooperative and unproductive after working late nights and weekends to pass five budgets is unjust.

It is a cheap shot to blame President Bob Burns for not getting 16 votes for the governor’s tax increase and not acknowledge what he accomplished. Using several column inches on Grover Norquist‘s tax pledge is a nice theatric, but irresponsible without mentioning that 46 out of 53 Republicans and zero Democrats voted for the tax referral.

Burns worked tirelessly to get votes in our caucus; he talked to Democrats; he split the tax package; he kept it together; he gained a vote here but lost a vote there, and we were still one vote shy. You don’t get these votes and pass five budgets without cooperation and compromise, and most of all, leadership. If you have a realistic strategy to get the votes, we would love to hear it.

Check your facts. This year was not the first year in history we missed the June 30 budget deadline. Appropriations and Rules committee members have been replaced many times before; and it is common to delay and reschedule hearings during negotiations. Stories of enraged members not being informed are dramatic, but untrue.

Ms. Pitzl’s description of the president’s “bill blockade” is also misleading. She says “most” lawmakers gave it a negative view, but she quotes a House, not a Senate, member in the article. What she fails to tell readers is that Sen. Burns ran for president on the promise to hold bills and won with the support of his caucus and subsequent committee chairs who backed him throughout this process.

He also lifted the ban to hear crucial legislation for Arizonans to extend unemployment benefits, redetermine AHCCCS qualifications to receive federal stimulus funds, and expand fingerprinting requirements to comply with the Adam Walsh Act.

Ms. Pitzl’s implication that we have thrown rules out the window that are supposed to “shape a predictable process” is fallacious. She has covered the Legislature long enough to know the only thing predictable around here is that there will be drama; we just don’t always know in what form it will appear. Our legislative rules allow us to make adjustments to handle the business at hand. Waiving rules to allow quicker movement on a budget the public had already processed and we already passed is efficient, not reckless.

The Arizona Republic should appreciate the effects of this devastating economy. Is it business as usual in your shop? No. Dysfunctional? Maybe. You laid off and furloughed reporters and made unpopular but painful adjustments, as we did. The whole state is in a crisis. Cut us some slack.

Arizona is broke. We may be newcomers, but we clearly see that overspending got us into this mess and the only way out is to reduce spending, reform programs and restore our ailing economy. Your paper is still implying the governor’s tax referral is the only solution. Please give Arizonans the truth. They deserve it.

Senator Steve Pierce, R-Prescott

Senator Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake

Senator Al Melvin, R-Tucson


  1. Senator Burns also “unplugged” the senate clock prior to midnight on June 30th, refused to acknowledge that the midnight hour had struck, ordered the doors locked until reporters started to ask questions. Do these folks think no reads around? And just because the gallery isn’t at capacity doesn’t mean a whole bunch of citizens aren’t tuned in to watch the live feed on the Arizona Legislative website. This boo-hoo fest would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. If I hadn’t see some of the Tom-Foolery for myself, I might give them a little credit. But two of these three were the biggest Stooges this session.

  2. GOP Stalwart says

    Maybe the time has come to kick out the two Libertarian Senators in the Republican Caucus who will not work with the GOP, Pamela Gorman and Ron Gould. It’s bad enough that we have a Democrat in the Caucus, Carolyn Allen.

  3. Donna really hit the nail on the head.

    I also watched a number of the sessions and committee meetings. Sen. Al Melvin and Sen. Sylvia Allen should be ashamed of themselves…their behavior was appalling and totally counterproductive.

  4. Veritas Vincit says

    GOP Stalwart, were it if you could (kick them out), but unless you live in their district and vote in their district, you’ll have to rely on the good voters in their district to see things as you do.

    Donna, you cite but a single example and that under extreme circumstances.

    Parent X, aside from lobbing a dirt clod, what specifics can you provide?

  5. So, this is what we now have in Arizona:

    National laughingstock.

    So, my taxes are going to go up for the next twenty years because they (Behind CLOSED DOORS) decided to sell the Fricking capital buildings?

    How about we sell the legislature with the inhabitants inside, sealed in with nothing to do until they pass a freaking balanced budget!!!!

    This example alone should provide all the contempt anyone needs for current R leadership.

    Ronald Reagan would be *ashamed* of this party.

    It has turned into a fiasco.

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