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Economy Is Politics: Arizona’s politico-economic disaster

Bet you thought I was exaggerating when I described the shenanigans going on down at the state house. Truth to tell, though, that post was barely the half of it: a lazy job of reporting, indeed.

To date, budget shortfalls have gutted higher education in Arizona, trashed K-12 education, closed down state parks, and shut down important segments of the state government. Tens of thousands of state workers and employees of companies that contract to the state have been thrown out of work. Far from showing any concern about these disasters, our legislators persist in a demented campaign to balance the budget on the backs of our children, of our most vulnerable citizens, and of every other resident.

What they are proposing to do is cut state income tax revenues by a half-billion dollars, repeal the $250 million state equalization tax, and inflict a further 5.2 percent cut on our already devastated education system. Health care for low-income children would be cut. Child Protective Services, never the nation’s finest agency of its kind, will be further reduced. Food banks will be cut.

To silence opponents, the legislature’s plan proposes to put the governor’s desired temporary 1 percent sales tax increase to the voters; in the unlikely event that they approve it, the 5 percent education cut will be erased.

The 3 percent flat tax legislators are straining to push through in this budget proposal will cut state revenues by $450 million just as a three-year sales tax hike phases out.

As a clue about what kind of people these are, Arizona Senator Jack Harper has described teachers as “feeding at the public trough,” and he made himself the subject of an ethics complaint when, acting as chairman of the committee of the whole, he “accidentally” shut off all the microphones in the room and then cut off an ongoing debate.

Meanwhile, these nut cases are legalizing dangerous fireworks, banned in Arizona for years because of the horrific risk they pose to the children to whom they are marketed (good idea: the more of the little darlings we can maim and kill, the less we’ll have to pay to educate them!), ending the hard-won domestic partner benefits for state employees, and planning to allow Arizonans to carry concealed weapons without a permit and to carry guns into public buildings and schools. They want to close the Arizona Historical Society (shutting a half-dozen museums and effectively discarding their holdings) and they have withheld $18 million in research funding promised to the Science Foundation Arizona. However, overcoming their distaste for “socialism,” these worthies are applying for $1 million in federal funding to save the state’s debunked, intellectually bankrupt abstinence-only program.

A  million bucks for abstinence-only…these are the same folks who tell us that if you’re poor and your sick child needs expensive medical care, you’re out of luck. See? If you had just abstained, you wouldn’t have had that weakling brat!

Jon Talton, an observer who calls the gang in power the Kookocracy, suggests we allow the fools to have their way. The disastrous result, he thinks, will demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt what extreme right-wing dogma means to the individual citizen’s pocketbook, jobs, and quality of life. That’s what it will take—the collapse of the state’s government and economy—to persuade Arizona voters to put the wackos out of office, once and for all.

Maybe so. In the interim, the disaster that will ensue—that is ensuing—will make this state a terrible place to live for a long time to come. Friends are talking about retiring to northern New Mexico. Not a bad idea: once I’m out of work this winter, thanks to the dismantling of higher education, I won’t really have to stay here. I may follow them to Los Alamos, joining the brain drain that’s already under way.

2 thoughts on “Economy Is Politics: Arizona’s politico-economic disaster”

  1. I remember visiting my soon-to-be in-laws 30 years ago when California’s proposition 13 (which froze property taxes and required subsequent tax increases to pass w/ 2/3 majority). Apparently California’s current troubles are due to that law.

    My own legislature just restored funds (not all) to higher ed and hospitals.

    Scary scary stuff.

    • @ frugalscholar: Our revered leaders ended today’s deliberations with another hang-up. It’s beginning to look more possible that they might fail to come to any agreement by Tuesday–that’s the day after tomorrow!–and shut the state government down. Plans are to keep a skeleton crew of DPS officers, enough ADOT workers to keep streetlights operating, enough prison guards to feed and provide light medical care for inmates, and of course plenty of tax collectors. Otherwise, most Arizona employees, university types included, will be laid off work until a budget is approved.

      So many questions: Will our health insurance lapse, since premiums will not be paid? Will we just not get paid–ever–for days we were not allowed to work because of the lawmakers’ incompetence? What about those of us who are exempt, paid to do a job rather than be present a certain number of hours per day? Will it matter whether those people are sitting in an office, or will ALL employees, exempt and nonexempt, be docked for the unbudgeted days?

      Prop 13 had all sorts of unintended consequences. It wasn’t surprising that taxpayers, given a chance, would vote in caps and freezes on property taxes. An elderly cousin of mine had to sell her paid-off home–a modest place, not some early-day McMansion–because taxes rose so high she couldn’t afford to keep it. She was in her 80s at the time, so you can imagine the grief and disruption that caused. The problem was that the implications were so complex they apparently couldn’t be explained clearly to voters, or possibly they couldn’t be fully anticipated. It also must be remembered that things like education, libraries, parks, and social services just don’t matter much to a large segment of the populace. The people who are in elected office here, who must represent some constituency in Arizona, obviously don’t care whether universities, schools, libraries, parks, and museums continue in existence or not.

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