Friday we passed the final budget for Fiscal Year 2012 — a truly balanced budget, something we haven’t had in five years. There are no gimmicks, no rollovers, and no borrowing. Senate leadership stood firm on our commitment to not allow accounting tricks in the budget. Borrowing simply increases the hole we are in and passes the buck to future legislatures and generations. These difficult but necessary decisions on reductions provide the framework for Arizona’s future prosperity.
In the November elections, the public made it clear that they expected the state to balance the books and not push the tough decisions down the road. That is what we did and we did the right thing for Arizona and the right thing for all our citizens. This general fund budget is $8.3 billion. That money comes from the hard work of our citizens. Of the $8.3 billion in this budget, education received the highest percentage (51 percent of the state budget), and health care was next (AHCCCS is now nearly 16 percent of the state budget). The entire Arizona budget is $29 billion. It is hard to get your mind around a billion dollars. How long would it take for me to spend a billion dollars? If I stood on a street corner and handed out a dollar every second, it would take 29 years, 236 days.
Instead of looking at what we didn’t fund, look at how much we did fund with your money. These are the positive aspects of the budget. I do understand the sacrifices that will be required of all those who are dependent on government dollars. Throughout the budgeting process, I took into consideration my district, and made every attempt to lessen the impact on county government, which would have been severe, and to protect small school districts. With the help of my seatmates in the House, Representatives Brenda Barton and Chester Crandell, I believe we were successful.
My frustration throughout the budgeting process has been the negativity of the media and the Democrats. The headlines do not reflect the good work that has been done here. The hours and hours of work that went into this budget. Instead, they dwell upon the consequences of the reductions which was brought about because of years of overspending. That overspending made the drop in revenue from the recession create a crisis, and it became harder to climb out of the mess.
Because Republicans produced and passed a budget that is honestly balanced, we are in a much better financial position in the years ahead. If we hadn’t put our fiscal house in order, we would face falling off a cliff in 2014, when the one-cent temporary sales tax increase goes away. Instead, with a steadily improving economy, we will have an opportunity to see a surplus next year, and perhaps be able to increase some funding that had to be cut this year.
As we wrap up the state budget, it’s time to look at some others bills here at the Capitol. I helped to stop SB1411, which would have changed a 100-year policy on how county government works. Rep. Barton and I worked with the cities of Safford and Pima to overcome a problem they had with expenditure limitations. Payson has legislation that helps bring a new college campus to the town. I helped Eastern Arizona College pass a bill out of the Education Committee for a four-year-degree program. Sadly, that bill failed on the Floor. I have been working hard on the Gila Community College independence bill, and it passed the Senate and is now in the House. I have also been working on easing state land regulation for potash mining in Navajo and Apache counties. Reps. Crandell and Barton will now work all of the bills through the House. In these last few remaining weeks of session, we hope to see successful passage and a signature from the governor on all of these bills.