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100 ways to legislate without Santa

There’s plenty of talk in the national media about state and local governments dreaming up long Christmas lists to try and make a grab for their share of federal stimulus spending.
But Arizona is on the verge of a deficit exceeding $1 billion for the current fiscal year. And the gap between state spending and revenue is expected to grow for years to come. Uncle Sam doesn’t have a big enough bag of cash to fill that gap — notwithstanding Gov. Janet Napolitano’s newfound political pull. But the harsh truth is that the gap can’t be closed without fundamental change—the kind of change outlined in the Goldwater Institute’s recently released report, “100 Ideas for 100 Days.”
The most important reforms proposed in Goldwater’s “100 Ideas” are aimed at restoring no-frills, responsible government. The state didn’t get into this position by spending too little or not doing enough. Hard choices weren’t made when procrastination was an option. Timeless principles of thrift and responsibility require new, tough policies to avoid compounding these mistakes.
First and foremost, we can no longer afford legislative and gubernatorial “gaming” of the state Constitution’s balanced budget requirement. That’s why reforms are needed to end financial gimmickry in balancing the budget, as well as to require the state treasurer to certify any future budget as balanced before it can be submitted for gubernatorial approval. Combined with greater transparency—including real-time tracking of state expenditures—implementing these ideas will strengthen our political resolve to embrace fiscal responsibility.
Secondly, the state needs to refocus its resources to where they are actually needed. At the very least, this means cutting back on needless — and costly — regulation. To that end, the state should adopt laws requiring rigorous “sunrise” scrutiny of all new regulations, as well as periodic “sunset” scrutiny of all existing regulations. Under such sunrise and sunset laws, no regulation would be created if its proponents cannot demonstrate that first there are real problems warranting government action; second that the regulation in question has or is likely to remedy the problems effectively; and finally that the regulation is the best remedy for the problem with consideration for all alternatives.
These are but a few of the reforms the Goldwater Institute proposes in “100 Ideas for 100 Days.” If taken seriously, the state could soon start moving out of the red and into the black.
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute’s Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.

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