The Arizona Legislature has always had a solid core of real fiscal conservatives who believe in balanced budgets and want to protect Arizona’s taxpayers, producers and consumers. But for the first time in recent memory, an Arizona governor is actually taking the leadership role of holding the line against the growth of Big Government.
To protect Arizona’s taxpayers, producers and consumers, the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity is urging legislators and their constituents to support the overall direction of the executive budget released on Jan. 16 by Governor Doug Ducey.
First and foremost, AFP-Arizona strongly agrees with Governor Ducey that Arizona needs to put more money in our classrooms, and to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on excess administration, frivolous capital and soft capital projects, and services that do not directly improve front-line classroom instruction.
According to the latest available annual report from the state superintendent of public instruction, total annual funding in Arizona from all sources (local, state, and federal) was over $8,000 per pupil. That is a LOT of money. With an average classroom of 25 students, that means there is $200,000 of potential resources in that classroom. Think about that for a moment.
If a school district limited capital maintenance, administrative overhead and other services to one-third of expenditures ($66,000), it could allocate $66,000 for the salary and benefits of a good teacher in every classroom, and still allocate another $66,000 to pay a special education instructor to work with the IEPs in every classroom.
(Go ahead: Ask your favorite front-line teachers if they actually make $66,000 a year. Perhaps some senior teachers make that much, but you’ll probably find that the only folks making that much money are administrators, many of whom rake in six figures.)
With Ducey, we also believe that the corporate special interests in Arizona can do without the $100 million slush fund Ducey proposes to take away from the Arizona Commerce Authority. And we believe that the educrats at our community colleges who waste taxpayer money and student tuition dollars can do without the $84 million Ducey proposes as reductions to higher education budgets.
The executive budgets of Governors Napolitano and Brewer had absurdly high revenue projections and dangerously high spending proposals that had to be cut down by the real leaders in the Legislature. But it’s a new day in Arizona.
By making more than $660 million in spending reductions to the FY 2016 budget, and by making $450 million in permanent spending reductions in FY 2017, Governor Ducey’s proposal has the potential to give Arizona a structurally balanced state budget for the first time since the go-go days of the real estate boom, seven years ago.
Bonus: Ducey’s plan has the potential to balance the budget without reneging on previously-enacted pro-growth tax cuts. (We’re not in favor of raising the vehicle registration fee, but if you’re looking for small amounts of revenue, it’s better to go with a genuine user fee, rather than raising general revenue taxes.)
More broadly, Ducey’s budget proposal has the potential to get Arizona off the spending rollercoaster that crashed state finances in the past decade. Ducey’s $9.1 billion budget is well under the prudent budget growth limit of population-plus-inflation.
Of course, this will not be an easy fight. Arizona’s legislators are constantly surrounded by the wailing and moaning of the Big Government spending lobbies. The school district bureaucrats, corporate crony capitalists, and educrats at our community colleges and universities – and their hundreds of paid lobbyists – are going to fight hard to try to water down Governor Ducey’s budget reductions.
AFP-Arizona encourages all of Arizona’s taxpayers, families and businesses to TAKE ACTION TODAY and contact their legislators in support of Governor Ducey’s budget reforms.
– Tom Jenney is Arizona director of Americans for Prosperity (www.aztaxpayers.org).