Among the benefits of the state's recent housing boom is an estimated revenue surplus of $850 million.
Now there is talk about how the money should be spent.
Some want the state to save it for a time when the economy is not so bright and shiny. Others want it put into programs and raises for state workers. There is also talk about using it to cut taxes.
Before a decision is made regarding the money, we would all be better served by an examination of where our state is weak. Once the trouble spots have been identified, then a plan to make improvements with the surplus could be made.
New programs shouldn't be part of the equation. Once a program is started, it has to be continually funded. There is no guarantee the state will continue to reap revenue surpluses.
Education and Child Protective Services are two areas where Arizona is known to have weaknesses.
Existing programs in schools and educational mandates from the court should be among the priorities when doling out the surplus is finalized.
Recently there was a report that CPS has not been able to do justice to its mission: taking care of children and families at risk. Perhaps some of the money could be used to bring in temporary help to bring the work with CPS clients up to date. As that is accomplished, streamlining the system, to make it more efficient and effective, could also be tackled.
Addressing the problems hampering CPS could have a long-range benefit: getting some of the clients into the mainstream and reducing or eliminating their dependence on assistance programs.
The state does not have to spend the entire surplus. Some of it could be set aside for future down times.
The surplus is going to be one of the priorities tackled by the Legislature when it convenes for its 2006 session next week. Let our representatives know how you would like to see the money spent.