Budget no-go

July 30, 2009

Looking weary and with her hair pulled back in a utilitarian ponytail, Gov. Jan Brewer encountered another stalemate yesterday as the fragile budget negotiations shattered again. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are happy with the plan. Debate resumes today.

The sticking points are the temporary sales-tax increase on which Brewer appears to be staking her political future. The Republican governor is not winning GOP converts to a tax hike during these hard economic times. She wants to forward the issue to the voters, thereby keeping the blood off her hands. Republican legislators aren’t buying the charade.

Democrat spending enthusiasts are balking at the inclusion of future tax cuts, which would be an integral part of the ballot referral. State spending would be frozen at the 2009 level for the next three fiscal years.

Stay tuned. Someone needs to blink today.

A Tale of Two Cities — today

July 30, 2009

As Charles Dickens so aptly put it, in his classic A Tale of Two Cities, “…it was the winter of despair…”

And, so it was in Arizona, starting in the winter of 2008. Revenue shortfalls were wreaking havoc with the state budget, the county budgets, and even the city budgets.

The profligate spending habits of cities like Phoenix were spilling over from year to year. Old habits are hard to break. The people expect all the services and freebies to carry over, just like federal entitlements.

Looking forward with perfect foresight, would the voters have approved spending $1.4 billion on a 15-mile streetcar line, when equal service could already be provided by the Phoenix bus system? How about extracting $200 million from Phoenix taxpayers for an ASU downtown campus building which should have been paid for by all of the state’s taxpayers? Did Phoenix desperately need all the enhancements and improvements in its last bond program, for $880 million?

In stark contrast, and luckily for Scottsdale, after Jim Lane the new Republican Mayor took office six months ago, he and his GOP allies, council members Bob Littlefield, Tony Nelssen and Lisa Borowsky, have turned the Scottsdale City Council into the most fiscally conservative municipal government in Arizona.

Here is just a sampling of the things that the new council majority has done to meet the challenges of this unprecedented economic downturn:

Scottsdale became the first, and likely only, city in Arizona to refuse stimulus funds that would have obligated the city to ongoing future spending. Breaking bad spending habits of the federal government is crucial to budget success.

Scottsdale became the first city in Arizona to file an amicus brief in the CityNorth case supporting the appellate court decision that  subsidies given to the developer violate the Gift Clause of the Arizona Constitution. Only the Town of Oro Valley has since joined Scottsdale in supporting that anti-subsidy position.

This new Republican majority council  cut the 2009-2010 budget by $14 million beyond  the city manager’s proposal, in order to be prepared for the continuing revenue shortfalls caused by the economic downturn.  

They accomplished this feat without cutting core services. Libraries did not close, nor were police, fire or code enforcement officers taken off the streets. They refused to use gimmicks such as raiding the city’s reserves and contingency funds. Even better, they did this while holding the line on water rate increases and cutting the city’s property-tax rate enough to reduce, not just the rate, but actually the overall amount city residents will pay — a real tax cut!  

Unlike the federal government, where a slowing in the rate of growth of the budget is counted as a cut, Scottsdale’s city spending will actually decrease next fiscal year by at least $63 million. There is also a decrease  in the number of city employees. The new Republican majority on the Scottsdale City Council is making real, permanent reductions in the size of Scottsdale city government, a reflection of the basic value system of the Republican majority.

Cities and towns spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year. While it is important to elect fiscal conservatives to state and national office, the accomplishments in Scottsdale pinpoint the need to elect fiscal conservatives to our municipal offices as well.

Perhaps the City Councils can act as role models for our state legislators

Tolerate everything, stand for nothing

July 29, 2009

So you thought Home Depot was just a do-it-yourselfer’s home and garden shop?

It turns out the giant home improvement retailer has other projects up their collective sleeve — aimed at children.

Read the OneNewsNow report here.

Arizona’s budget woes headline the Drudge Report

July 29, 2009

There it is in bright red type along the top margin of Drudge Report:  Desperate Arizona may sell Capitol buildings! We need the money’…

While not exactly surprising news and lease back arrangements have occurred previously, this is a distinct pain in the pride to those of us who call Arizona home.

As the state grapples with the worst financial crisis in memory, dozens of other state properties also may also be on the auction block.

The plan would be to sell the properties and then lease them back over several years before re-assuming ownership. The daily newspaper reports that the  intricate transaction would allow government services to continue uninterrupted while giving the state a fast infusion of as much as $735 million, according to Capitol projections.

Forbes magazine’s upcoming August edition runs an article titled, Stupid Debt Tricks Some of the games states are playing to plug vast holes in their budget deficits. You can read it here.

The Washington Times discovers AZ’s Superintendent of Public Instruction

July 29, 2009

AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has received some well deserved national coverage for his efforts to end the controversial La Raza ethnic studies program in the Tucson Unified School District.

Horne found the program was using textbooks such as “Oppressed America,” which quotes a Hispanic activist saying that Chicanos should “kill the gringo.” Another textbook, “The Mexican American Heritage,” he said, promotes the idea of Aztlan, the five Southwestern states that activists say should be returned to Mexican control.

An English teacher, Hector Ayala, reported that a Raza studies teacher at Cholla High School had accused him of being “the white man’s agent” and that students had said they were being taught “not to fall for the white man’s traps.” “The problem with these [ethnic] studies is they have a tendency to be very separatist,” Mr. Ayala said. “They tell kids their failures and shortcomings are not their own, that white men are putting obstacles in their way.”

In 2006, Deputy Superintendent Margaret Garcia Dugan came to speak to students at Tucson High Magnet School in response to a previous speaker, United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, who told students that “Republicans hate Latinos.”

Dugan, whose father was an immigrant mine worker, told the students, “I’m Latina, and I’m Republican, and I don’t hate myself.” A small group of students stood up, raised their fists and walked out.

The complete article in the Washington Times can be read here.

Last month, Horne and former Arizona House Speaker Rep. Jim Weiers (R-Dist.10) basked in the glow of a major victory in the form of a U.S. Supreme Court decision addressing the Flores v. Arizona English Language Learner (ELL) case.

Blue Heron for the Obama’s, a goose egg for their “subjects”

July 29, 2009

While Americans are struggling with the highest unemployment rate in 26 years, previously successful businesses are shuttering their doors,  and many are losing their homes to foreclosure, the Obama’s will be spending their summer vacation in grand style. The First Family is making plans for a vacation at the 28 acre, $20 million retreat called Blue Heron Farm, in Chilmark, recorded as America’s most expensive small town in 2007. The island retreat off Cape Cod sports private access to a stretch of Squibnocket Beach, and a private dock with kayaks and a yacht.

The high-end digs also include a private golf course, swimming pool, basketball court and a rental price tag of up to $50,000 a week.

$50,000 a week? And you were balking at the beach cabanas in San Diego?

The rental agreement being negotiated has reportedly been split into three separate leases: one to be held by the Obama’s — and paid for out of their own pockets — one by the Secret Service, and a third by the White House, which will be sending a large entourage to Martha’s Vineyard to accompany the President.  The Vineyard Gazette confirms the notable visitors’ stay.

But at least the money will go to a good cause. Blue Heron Farm belongs to William and Mollie Van Devender, Republicans who bought the property for $20.35 million in 2005. The Van Devender’s are high-dollar donors to GOP candidates.

The Times has more here.

An honest Democrat

July 28, 2009

Democrat Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned the point of lawmakers reading the Obama administration’s disastrous government health care bill before voting on the massive overhaul — shot through with rationing of medical care based on patient age, cost analysis and seriousness of condition.

“Ha, ha! I love these members that get up and say, ‘Read the bill!’ What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you’ve read the bill?”