Budget blown wide open by political wrangling

by Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.
Goldwater Institute

Last week Governor Brewer line-item vetoed pieces of the budget sent to her by the legislature. With that she blew the budget wide open. Even by the lax standards of state government accounting, the budget is nowhere close to being balanced, a direct violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the state constitution. But there’s more.

The legislature’s late-day actions on Monday did nothing to close the $2 billion gap the governor’s vetoes created. In fact, in order to get a veto-proof majority to keep the schools open and restore Department of Economic Security spending, more money had to be spent than was called for in the original plan. The hole the governor has created is far larger than the half-billion dollars her disastrous sales tax plan would raise. But there’s even more.

The legislature took a shortcut in the budget they passed that has come back to bite them, and the taxpayer. Rather than identifying the amount of money each state agency is allowed to spend, the legislature delivered an appropriations bill that had negative numbers. In other words, the appropriations bill didn’t just appropriate funds; parts of it identified the amount of spending each agency would need to cut relative to last year. So, effectively, with her line item vetoes, Brewer was able to increase government spending with a stroke of a pen.

It’s important to note that the legislature’s budget that Governor Brewer said was “fatally flawed” and embraced cuts she called “excessive,” still kept the state on track for 4 percent growth in annual spending since 2000 and that doesn’t account for the state spending bubble in recent years. Governor Brewer’s tax increase proposal would grow current General Fund revenues by yet another 10 percent. All of these budget increases are on the table despite the fact that we are facing the largest per-capita deficit in the country.

After this ugly episode, it’s clear that the legislature should stop drafting appropriations bills with negative numbers. They should plainly state how much money they want each agency to spend and avoid putting the state in even tougher circumstances come next year.

Byron Schlomach, Ph.D, is director of economic policy at the Goldwater Institute.


  1. kralmajales says

    To emphasize…the Republican controlled legislature and the Republican controlled Governor. I disagree with the Dr. Schlomach, but I don’t disagree about where the blame goes.

  2. We have a republican governor? Who might that be.

    Won’t 2011 be even worse now? No stimulus $ and many of the funding cuts wiped out?

    Fine, Kral, you don’t like it, that’s not exactly a news flash but what do they do next year.

    Ring, Ring…Hello….Piper?….You want HOW much?….

  3. Oberserve says

    Reading between the lines…..

    Speaker Adams and President Burns knew full well how this was going to go down, preplanned it in conjunction with the governor, staged a fight with her on “behalf” of the legislature/senate and people, and then not only sold out the rank and file and people of AZ, but torched them with a flamethrower once it was too late to do anything about it.

    Brewer, Adams, and Burns now need to retire from politics and I’ll work to help make that happen!

  4. Oberserve, you obviously don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about. The battle between Brewer and Burns & Adams was/is real. Brewer is not the same conservative we all have known for over 20 years. Sorry to disappoint you, but no black helicopters here. Just some surprising decisions from the Ninth Floor.

  5. Continuous stupidity is rarely rewarded says

    Brewer is a true conservative.

    What we have here is failure, failure to communicate.

    What the party in Arizona is doing is going rabid stark raving nuts.

    The economy has crashed, and the demand for social services has blasted skyward.

    Spending our Rainy Day fund on tax cuts looks mighty stupid, so suck it up and fill the holes in revenue.

  6. kralmajales says

    Bueno Continuous, Bueno!

  7. Oberserve says


    Once again you have been proven wrong!

    As I pointed out in 3, Burns was in on supporting the governor’s position. You falsely refuted and were proven wrong.

    Now, the CapTimes has broken that he in fact is removing members from leadership positions who support the taxpayers and the people against the governor.

    Kral – You’re wrong – yet again!
    I was right – yet again!

  8. kralmajales says

    How could I possibly be wrong when I said that the Governor is Republican and the House and Senate are Republican controlled. You cannot possibly blame any of this on the Democrats.

    Can say that “Burns isn’t a republican or that Brewer isn’t” but they are…and this legislature and Gov is yours.

  9. Agreeing to send the tax increase to the ballot for the people to decide is not the same as supporting a tax increase. In fact, I believe the people will vote it down, giving conservatives a solid mandate to cut spending. I understand and appreciate our conservative brothers and sisters not wanting it to go to the ballot (anything could happen in an election), but on this issue, at this time, I support the people making the decision–and making the correct decision by turning it down. Side note: Isn’t it interesting that the Democrats are claiming to oppose the once-cent tax hike because it would mostly hurt the middle class. Last year, weren’t they supporting Napolitano’s once-cent tax hike to build roads? Oh yeah, Nappy is a dem and Brewer is an R. Democrat hypocrisy again.

  10. Oberserve says

    Ron B

    If you are Republican, yes it is. End of story.

    Anyone who says otherwise is a lib.

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