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Brewer vetoes bill to limit state spending

By vetoing a bill that would have placed strict limits on how quickly government spending could increase, Gov. Jan Brewer has drawn the ire of conservative tax policy advocates.

“The governor has thrown away a great opportunity to prove to the people of Arizona that the state government is serious about getting its fiscal house in order,” said Tom Jenney, director of the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Under HB2707, the amount of money the state could spend would have been based on population growth plus inflation, a formula that would, proponents argued, keep the state from dramatically increasing spending during brief economic spikes.

Though Brewer has been a supporter of some sort of state revenue limit, she explained in her veto letter that she thought the mechanism in the bill was too restrictive.

“We should learn from the state of Colorado that experimented with a similar measure, and failed,” she wrote.

In Colorado, the only state that has implemented the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, provisions, the strict spending limits locked the state into a low baseline set during the economic downturn from 2001 to 2003. Such a scenario has been held up by opponents of TABOR as its inevitable consequence.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, gained support among fiscal hawks and had 41 co-sponsors in the House and Senate, including Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills.

“I still think population-plus-inflation is a reasonable guide. I stand by my vote,” Kavanagh said. “But I’m sure we can work out some mutually agreeable bill with the Governor’s Office. We just have to iron out our differences.”

In the past, Brewer has suggested a state revenue limit based on a rolling average of past budgets, which TABOR supporters have criticized as being too weak.

“The problem with using a rolling average of past budgets is that the average of past budgets is too high,” Jenney said. “We would simply be saying, ‘Henceforth, we will be spending, on average, what we have been spending on average.’ It doesn’t look like much of a spending limit.”

However, there were a handful of Republican dissenters in the legislature. In the Senate, Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, and Linda Gray, R-Glendale, voted against the bill. In the House, Bob Robson, R-Chandler, and Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, also voted no.

Robson said he shared the governor’s concern that the formula for setting the revenue limit was too strict, and also worried about the effects on education.

“When you set an artificial ceiling, it takes away the ability of the legislators to use their discretion in setting the budget,” Robson said. “And that’s what we’re primarily there to do.”

3 comments

  1. When the Governor proposed a spending limit plan very similar to mine in her executive budget proposal in January, 2011, I was very optimistic. I thought that the State of AZ would be able to implement a plan that would have government live within its means and provide a mechanism to pay down our state debt. After all, I had met with the Governor’s office, JLBC (Joint Legislative Budget Committee) and others on developing good spending limit legislation since September, 2010. After months of analyzing different proposals, I was disappointed that a brand new, totally different proposal was presented by the Governor’s office at the last minute that would not have been supported by the legislature. Therefore I decided to proceed with the original plan. If our state had a spending limit in place when revenues were rolling in back in 2006, our state wouldn’t be in the financial mess it is in now. I will continue to work with the Governor’s office to develop a plan that both she and the legislature can support.

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