Panel approves ballot measure to repeal voter protection on spending
Published: February 2, 2010 at 7:16 pm
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a ballot measure Feb. 2 that will ask voters to repeal a constitutional amendment limiting lawmakers’ ability to amend voter-mandated spending.
Republican lawmakers have argued that these restrictions placed by Proposition 105 have tied their hands and made it extremely difficult to balance the budget in difficult times.
A good chunk of the state budget is voter-protected. Under Prop. 105, which voters passed in 1998, the Legislature cannot amend a ballot proposition unless the amendment “furthers the purposes” of the original proposition. The amendment also must be approved by three-fourths vote of the Legislature.
An analysis prepared by the Legislature’s budget arm in 2008 stated that about $3.6 billion of the state’s then $10-billion general fund budget could be viewed as voter-protected. Additionally, some $1.2 billion in non-general fund spending also appeared to be subject to the provisions of Prop. 105, according to the Joint Budget Legislative Committee.
The measure, SCR1033, which repeals Prop. 105, was approved by a vote of 6-to-2.
“What this does is to allow voters to reconsider what they passed at the time (and) remove the political handcuffs off of this body,” said Sen. Russell Pearce, who sponsored the measure.
“You wouldn’t be looking for a tax increase today if you had the ability to manage this entire budget,” he said, adding some programs wouldn’t be hit as hard.
But Sen. Paula Aboud, a Democrat from Tucson, said the public does not trust the Legislature.
She said voters were unhappy with decisions made by lawmakers; hence they passed Prop. 105.
“This wasn’t just one person. This was the state of Arizona (not supporting) the way the Legislature handled certain issues,” said Aboud.
“I think the public does not trust the way this Legislature will allocate dollars,” she said, adding sometimes the Legislature’s priorities are different than the public’s.
Voter-mandated spending impacts budget for the Arizona Department of Education, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the Department of Health Services, Arizona State Parks Board and the Citizens Clean Election Commission.
If voters pass SCR1033, lawmakers would have the ability to amend these voter-mandated spending programs. Lawmakers would also be able to dip into programs that have a dedicated revenue stream, such as the tobacco tax that funds the Early Childhood Development and Health Board.