Lately, there's been a lot in the news about the budget crisis affecting the state. Income tax collections are down dramatically and sales tax growth is flat. The Arizona Legislature will begin this month to wrestle with a billion-dollar budget deficit. This deficit is partly of its own making--during the 1990s the Legislature repeatedly reduced income tax rates in response to an expanding economy and continued to add to the long list of exemptions to the sales tax. As many others have already said, balancing the budget will be no easy task and I don't envy the governor and state Legislature. Nor do I want to help them at the expense of Payson.
As granted by the voters of this state through many different initiatives over several decades, the state "shares" some of the money it collects from sales, income and gas taxes with the cities and towns of Arizona, including Payson. The temptation will be strong to look to the cities and towns to help trim the state's deficit. The Legislature could even vote to reduce the amount of revenues the state "shares" with us. While not illegal, this would be morally and ethically wrong because it was the voters of this state who approved the revenue sharing in the first place. And it would be a double hit -- we are already sharing from a smaller pie as a result of past legislative actions and the current economic downturn.
All is not doom and gloom, though. District 5 Legislators are sympathetic to our plight and do not relish actions that would damage our ability to provide the services our citizens need and want. Governor Napolitano has also left city and town revenue sharing off the list of options for balancing the 2003 and 2004 budgets. We must remain vigilant, however, for as long as the Legislature remains in session, nothing is certain.