KNAU and Arizona News
10:03 am
Sun December 20, 2009

Lawmakers approve nearly $200 million in budget cuts

Phoenix, AZ – State lawmakers have given final approval to a 194 million dollar
package of spending cuts and fund shifts.

There is universal consensus that the state is spending far more
than it is collecting. But the plan approved by the House
Saturday with only Republicans in support involves solely
trimming or eliminating programs. The debate sharply highlighted
the philosophical differences between the parties. Democratic
Rep. David Bradley chided Republicans for using a cut-only
approach to the budget when there is another option: Raise more
money.

"This is a time for the tightening of belts around the waists of
those who can afford it, not around the necks of those who
cannot. And that's what we do when we kind of just mercilessly
cut many things. We're leaving people behind."

But Republican Rick Murphy said the Democrats are looking at the
problem all wrong.

"Shifting the money in this state around, and having government
take more of it is not going to solve our problem. It's going to
make it worse."

He said what's needed is a revamped tax system, with a particular
focus on reducing property taxes on business.

"Let's actually reform our tax code so that the barriers to
investment that we have in this state are gone, so that we can
put open a welcome mat for business to come here and create
capital investment and create the kind of good jobs that
everybody keeps saying they want, but not willing to do something
different to get them."

But Democrat Chad Campbell said that businesses want more than
low taxes. They also want a good education system and quality of
life. That he said, means the need to accept some of the revenue
hikes Democrats are proposing.

"Because if not, we're going to end up with cuts like this, cuts
that are going to make us the first state in the nation with no
parks system. Is that the message we want to send to America?
It's not the message I want to send. And when I talk to people in
the business community they tell me, people are looking at us and
we are the laughing stock of the country."

Democrat Eric Meyer also weighed in, saying another cut to
graduate medical education will undermine the training of needed
doctors in the state. But the calls to minimize spending cuts
brought a sharp retort from Republican Andy Biggs.


"If you want to keep spending at the levels anywhere near what
we've been spending, you've got to answer that question: How high
do you want to set the tax rate."

The discussion also got a bit personal. Republican Steve
Yarbrough chided Democrats for voting against this plan and prior
budget reductions.

"Now it may be politically expedient to say I voted against the
cuts. But that is political gamesmanship, not statesmanship.
Members voting no like to say well, we know cuts are necessary.
But apparently there's no political benefit to voting for them,
so I'll just keep voting no."

But Democrat David Schapira said members of his party were
presented with a package of cuts crafted by Republicans -- a
package that was put together without Democratic input.

"The argument has been made today that Democrats oppose cuts.
This is a ridiculous argument. Look at any proposal we made this
session. All of them include cuts. Just because we oppose your
cuts doesn't mean we oppose cuts."

House Majority Whip Andy Tobin said if Democrats are interested
in additional revenues they should have supported a plan earlier
this year to put a temporary sales tax hike on the ballot. But
Minority Leader David Lujan pointed out that came with strings:
To just get a public vote on a sales tax, lawmakers would have
had to approve future tax cuts, many aimed largely at business.
An aide to Gov. Jan Brewer said she is reviewing the package but
is expected to sign it.