Ray Rottas generally flew below the political radar, both when he served as a state senator and the state treasurer during the 1970s and 80s, but those close to him say his impact on Arizona public policy remains to this day, and his death last month leaves a void in Arizona politics.
Rottas, a Republican from Phoenix, served in the state Senate from 1971-74 and again from 1977-82. That year he was elected state treasurer, a post he held until 1990.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee beginning in 1979, Rottas helped craft much of the sweeping tax reform legislation that Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved in 1980. He died July 11 at the age of 83.
Alan Maguire, a Phoenix economist, served as the Senate’s economist from 1977-83 and worked closely with Rottas and the Finance Committee. He said Rottas was the kind of lawmaker that leadership asked to handle complex issues because he was determined to find a solution.
“He was a very low-key kind of guy, but incredibly thorough and persistent,” Maguire said.
For example, Rottas successfully pushed for a constitutional amendment creating an expenditure limit for state government – something Sandra Day O’Connor, who previously championed the idea, was unable to do – and was instrumental in creating a host of school finance reforms.
But what was most memorable was his kindness, said Barry Aarons, who has been a lobbyist at the Capitol since the 1970s.
“He was a gentleman. He was a hard worker. He worked with people across the aisle,” Aarons said. “You’d never hear a harsh word come out of his mouth. It’s a very, very big loss for Arizona.”
Maguire said more policymakers should adopt Rottas’ level-headed approach to governing.
“I wish there were 100 more Ray Rottases out there in public policy,” he said.
A retired Air Force colonel and veteran of the Korean War, Rottas will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Barbara, four children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.