Thursday, January 7, 2010

Goldwater Institute: Fix for Arizona budget deficit is spending discipline

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.

money-beltHere'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.

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