Why AFT Is Optimistic About Arizona Politics

Here is the latestet Op-Ed from The Arizona Federation of Taxpayers:

Arizona’s Glass is More Than Half Full

By Chad Kirkpatrick and Tom Jenney

How can we be optimistic about the prospects for limited government?

At the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers we get this question from reporters, lobbyists, politicians, donors, and hundreds of grassroots taxpayer activists statewide.

Looking at recent political events in Arizona, there seems to be little reason for optimism. Last June, Governor Napolitano and the Legislature passed a $10.1 billion budget–a record 20 percent increase in expenditures. In November, voters approved a job-killing minimum wage and an 80-cent-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes that is guaranteed to increase tax avoidance and smuggling. Although voters approved restrictions on eminent domain and arbitrary land-use regulations, they also voted for massive government interference in the affairs of bar and restaurant owners. 

Short-term trends do not make the picture any rosier. The state budget has increased by 12 percent annually during the last four years, significantly faster than Arizonans’ personal income, and more than twice as fast as the combined growth of population and inflation. On the Tax Foundation’s 2007 State Business Tax Climate Index, Arizona had only the 28th healthiest business tax climate in the country, bested by regional competitors such as Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

Legislative leaders did goad the Governor into signing a modest ten percent income tax cut and some decent property tax cuts, but there is still a sizeable surplus, which means rapid budget increases could continue until the next recession, when revenues will fall off, forcing our politicians to choose between deep budget cuts and tax increases. Faced with that choice, it’s possible that our politicians would again use creative accounting to avoid raising taxes, but it’s a fair bet that there would not be much stomach for big budget cuts.

Again, how can we be optimistic?

First, the realities of the global economy will force Arizona to become more competitive. With the ever-increasing mobility of capital and labor, Arizona can no longer take comfort in having lower taxes than California. We must strive to create a tax and regulatory climate so inviting that American companies think of moving to Arizona before they think of moving offshore. At AFT, we believe that Arizonans have the vigor and vitality to save ourselves from increasing statism and stagnation.

Second, there is no shortage of good ideas for limiting Arizona’s government and freeing up the productive potential of our economy. AFT’s top policy priorities include eliminating Arizona’s job-killing personal and corporate income taxes, putting firm restraints on property taxes, strengthening Arizona’s constitutional spending limit, improving the quality and efficiency of education by expanding school choice, allowing Arizonans to use any health insurance plan approved in the fifty States, and putting limits on the taxpayer-funded lobbying that drives so much wasteful spending.

Third, the evidence continues to pile up in favor of limited-government solutions for most social problems. Many studies in recent years have demonstrated a strong correlation between slower growth in government spending and stronger economic growth. Recently, the Goldwater Institute’s Matt Ladner presented evidence showing that states with slower growth in government spending also do better at reducing poverty rates. That correlation has been long recognized (if often ignored) at the international level, but Ladner’s study breaks new ground by making the case at the interstate level. To the extent that Arizona’s policymakers and opinion leaders pay attention to empirical data, the proponents of increased welfare spending should now be on the defensive.

Finally, Arizona is blessed to have taxpayer activists and generous philanthropists who refuse to give in to the Big Spenders. In 2007, those activists and philanthropists will join forces in a new partnership between AFT, which has represented the Arizona taxpayer since 1978, and Americans for Prosperity, the nation’s premier free-market grassroots organization. Together, AFT and AFP will generate strong grassroots pressure to reduce the size and scope of Arizona government and to make room for a truly free and dynamic private economy.

If an optimist sees the glass as half full, put us down as more-than-optimists. As we see it, Arizona’s glass is more than half full.

–Chad Kirkpatrick is chairman and Tom Jenney is executive director of the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers (www.aztaxpayers.org), a state chapter of Americans for Prosperity (www.americansforprosperity.org).

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