by Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.
Timed perfectly for Halloween, Governor Brewer asked state agencies for proposals to reduce spending 15 percent in order to close the state's $2 billion budget deficit. The results have been predictably spooky scenarios painted by each agency.
In a recent editorial on the agencies' proposals, the Republic notes "The Department of Corrections proposes changing state law so felons can be released earlier." Headlines like these imply that hoards of murderers would wander our neighborhoods, but it is nothing more than a scare tactic to suggest the state would release violent criminals because of budget reductions.
While the editorial does acknowledge that agencies are employing the "Washington Monument" strategy (the practice of causing the most pain possible to undermine support for budget reductions), it fails to admonish them for refusing to play hardball with the feds. For example, while other states are challenging "maintenance of effort" requirements, the Department of Economic Security is pretending like there is no budget reduction choice besides eliminating KidsCare altogether, a program whose spending pales in comparison to AHCCCS.
The results of Governor Brewer's faux budget-cutting exercise were predictable. Agencies are painting the darkest possible picture. Our professional politicians, the bureaucrats, are running rings around the amateur elected ones.
Cures can be painful and a little scary, and curbing the state's spending habit is certainly no exception. The budget reductions needed to bring spending in balance with revenues might sound ghoulish, but they are necessary and achievable. A 15 percent across-the-board budget reduction would put state spending slightly above 2006 levels. That's hardly a catastrophe in a time like this.
Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., is the director of the Goldwater Institute's Center for Economic Prosperity.
Goldwater Institute: Saving with Systemic Change
Goldwater Institute: A Fresh Start for Arizona: Proposals for Closing a Billion-Dollar Budget Gap
Arizona Republic: We can't cut our way out of this budget mess