Fix for Arizona budget deficit is spending discipline

by Tom Patterson
Goldwater Institute
2009 was a disaster for Arizona state government. Gov. Jan Brewer and our lawmakers had two jobs. To dig out of the gaping budget hole left by Janet Napolitano and to prevent future meltdowns. Unfortunately, our leaders pulled up short on both counts.

Here’s the good news: Budget reductions of the magnitude necessary to close our monstrous deficit are possible. Part of the evidence comes from the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which has provided a detailed scenario of how the budget could be balanced. It’s strong medicine; but the plan could work if our leaders are strong enough to make it happen.

Another note of hope comes from Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal is leading an effort to get his troubled state back on its feet. They are serious about reducing the size of government through “streamlining, consolidation and elimination.” Thousands of positions and over 70 boards and commissions have been terminated. A broad range of privatization proposals are being developed.

Lawmakers should seize this opportunity to make some long-needed changes that will prevent similar debacles in the future. The most important is a constitutional spending limitation. If last decades’ campaign to restrict annual government spending increases to an amount equal to population growth and inflation (with voter-approved exceptions) had succeeded, this crisis would never have occurred.

Imagine an Arizona with a balanced budget, a growing economy, plentiful jobs and a friendly climate for businesses and families. We can have that Arizona. It all starts with spending discipline.

Tom Patterson is chairman of the Goldwater Institute and a former state senator. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.


  1. The proposal Mr. Patterson endorses is largely based on fantasy (selling Papago Military Reservation, etc.), incorrect numbers (that 1.6 billion would be saved by switching all schools to charter schools) and ‘accounting gimmicks’ (securitization of 20 years of lottery revenue) that all would have broad-ranging negative effects on the economy. It is clear the Goldwater Institute is simply not a credible source on this issue.

  2. Dr. Patterson,

    I hear that AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections is closing Eagle Point tomorrow. Staff was notified of their layoffs today. The cuts are happening. Of course, no one is sure what is happening to the youngsters who are there for bad behavior. Coming to a neighborhood near you soon, I am sure.

  3. Rule Number 1 of spender politicians: Always cut the things most likely to make the public squeal. Teach them a lesson in demanding cuts. Police, fire departments, prisons, jails, parks.

    But this time it’s going to be different. The money is not there. The debt is. The Federal money is borrowed money already. No “there” there to fall back on or beg for. Ignoring this or poo-pooing it is head in the sand denial. Businesses are closing or downsizing, people are being laid off in all sectors, consumer purchasing is dropping, manufacturing is slowing with unsold inventories, normally, that would be stagflation, but with the huge debt incurred by the Democratic Party-controlled Congress with full Democratic Party-controlled Executive Branch approval, economists are actually sounding warning alarms of conditions ripe for inflation. Seems that printing money is the “trick” to make this all work.

    Ask the Germans how the combo of crashed economy, enormous debt and printing money in 1930 worked for them.

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