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Contingency: Vote for tax hike, or here’s what gets cut

The budget that was mostly approved by lawmakers on March 11 will cut $1.2 billion in state spending, but it includes a contingency plan that will reduce spending by almost double that amount if voters reject a sales tax increase that will be on the ballot May 18.

Republican legislative leaders decided to outline the specific cuts that hang in the balance so voters would realize the consequences of voting against the 1-cent, temporary sales tax increase. Gov. Jan Brewer embraced it as an opportunity to boost voter support for the tax. She insisted that education and public safety programs be put on the chopping block.

Of the $862 million that will be slashed from state spending if voters reject the tax increase, $551 million – nearly two-thirds of the total cuts – will be cut from education funding.

Some lawmakers said they wanted to change the contingency budget plan, but the Governor’s Office and legislative leaders held firm. A gubernatorial spokesman said last week that the contingency cuts needed to mirror what the tax increase would fund to give voters a clear choice: Pay for education with the tax or watch school funding get cut.

The education cuts include:
• $429 million from K-12 public schools
• $107 million from the three state universities
• $15 million from community colleges

How effective the potential cuts to education and other state services, like health care for the poor and state prisons, are at persuading voters won’t be easy to gauge until the campaign supporting the tax increase hits top gear, but even some Republican lawmakers who oppose it said the conditional cuts will play heavy in the minds of voters when the cast their ballots.

“I think fear will be a very effective campaign tool,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, a Gilbert Republican who said he hopes voters defeat the tax increase.

To see what will get cut if voters don’t approve the temporary 1-cent sales tax increase, click on these two links: http://azcapitoltimes.com/wp-files//budgetproposal031210-6.pdf    http://azcapitoltimes.com/wp-files//budgetproposal031210-7.pdf

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