Every year, Arizona’s political leadership engages in a frenzy of grandstanding around the state budget. And every year we’re told to be scared, be very scared, because if the budget isn’t passed by the end of the fiscal year, the state government will shut down.
And every year, up until this one, it’s been so much stürm und drang.
This year, though, things look a little more dire. In the first place, we have an out-of-control legislature filled with right-wing demagogues who, deep in their hearts, would just as soon see the state government shut down. In the second, the state is in the middle of a real-life perfect financial storm; it’s not something a bunch of dunderheads can deal with, as we’re seeing by our elected representatives’ mulish and self-serving actions. And third: we’re not a week or two from the deadline. We’re hours away from it.
What the fools are doing is using the crisis to force through pet schemes that they couldn’t begin to faze past voters or a governor under normal circumstances. They’ve engaged the governor, who herself is very far to the right, in an idiotic showdown, refusing until the last minute to send her a budget they passed over two weeks ago, so as to circumvent her veto. They have no intention of putting their budget before the governor until the 30th, the last possible moment before the government closes down. Their outrageous scheme includes a provision for a flat income tax and a plan to put a one-cent sales tax before the voters, who are guaranteed to turn it down. It’s a pretend budget because it relies on a tax that will not fly, and it’s a doctrinaire end run to pass a regressive income tax that will weigh most heavily on the tens of thousands of Arizonans who have lost their jobs and the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who live on substandard wages.
While the governor probably is not prohibited from vetoing the budget if it arrives on her desk that late, they’re just daring her to veto it and shut down the government. She actually sued the legislature—a body dominated by members of her own party!—asking the state supreme court to find their actions unconstitutional and force them to get off the dime. The court agreed their actions are unconstitutional but declined to rule that they must play nice.
The characters in the legislature are so extreme, such right-wing wackos, that they make Governor Jan Brewer look moderate. That is quite an accomplishment.
If the budget is not passed by Tuesday, then none of us state employees will get our paychecks on Thursday. And one wonders whether we’ll be covered by health and dental insurance, since our premiums also will be in arrears.
One thing you have to say for Arizona politics: it’s always a spectacle!