For the second year in a row, Phoenix earned a ‘D’ grade in financial health from Truth in Accounting due to our pension debt. Pew Charitable Trusts ranks Phoenix the third worst city in the nation for declining funded ratios of pension promises. And according to Rich States, Poor States, Arizona has the second highest ratio of public full-time employees per 10,000 residents. Put simply, Phoenix is racking up debts our budget can’t cash.
The bureaucrats and politicians at City Hall have no interest in holding themselves accountable for the mess they’ve made. But on August 27, Phoenix voters will have a chance to remind the politicians who’s the boss thanks to a voter ballot initiative that I am sponsoring – Proposition 106, also known as Responsible Budgets. Currently, Phoenix has about $5.7 billion in unfunded pension obligations – a debt the politicians have been kicking down the road for decades, and the bills are coming due.
Unless we take action, now, Phoenix will be forced to cut critical services like police, fire, and street maintenance to pay for the profligacy of the people opposing these reforms. It was just over a year ago that Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher informed the City Council that Phoenix would soon need to raise taxes or cut city services to get by if we didn’t make some tough decisions. He wasn’t wrong. Already, the effects of our ballooning pension debts are taking a serious, even life-threatening toll on city services. Response times for emergency responders are at all-time highs. Our roads, bridges, and infrastructure are crumbling. Our parks and public areas are deteriorating. We are heading for a crisis.
Yet when they were given a chance to tackle this problem head-on last year, the politicians on the Phoenix City Council again chose to kick the can down the road, extending the repayment timeline for our obligations and adding up to $3.3 billion in additional costs just so they could spend a few million extra now. That isn’t merely bad planning, it is wholesale irresponsibility bordering on public malfeasance. It also makes perfectly clear that the public cannot sit around waiting for the politicians who created this problem to solve it. We must take action ourselves, and vote “Yes” on Proposition 106.
Here’s what Prop 106 does:
Ends full-time pensions for part-time politicians. Because serving in office shouldn’t be a career, it should be an act of service.
Creates transparency and empowers voters with the truth. Prop 106 requires the city to use standard Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) so our debts can no longer hide behind fuzzy government math, and to base the calculations of our deficits on historically accurate data instead of the fake, politically negotiated numbers the public currently has access to.
Doesn’t cut a single existing job or program.
Allows for steady growth of the budget, but requires surpluses to be used to pay down pension debt before new spending programs can be added in.
Ensures we keep our promises to our retirees.
Protects police and fire from any cuts or restrictions in their budgets.
Mayor Gallego has said that Proposition 106 would have a “profound” impact on the city of Phoenix, and she’s right. Responsible Budgets does what the politicians won’t do – tell the truth about our debt and create the discipline to fix it while saving city services.
With Responsible Budgets, retirees will be able to count on our promises when it matters most. On August 27, Phoenix voters get to take back their city and tell the politicians their gravy train is over. I urge you to vote yes on 106 and protect Phoenix from becoming the next Detroit. For more information, please visit our website at www.responsiblebudgets.com.
— Sal DiCiccio represents District 6 on the Phoenix City Council.