Arizona’s budget mess rode the top edge of the Arizona Republic today, which means we may be getting back to a focus on our state dysfunction.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

In their coverage, the Republic put two of their hardest-working reporters to the task of explaining our dilemma: Mary Jo Pitzl and Mary K. Reinhart. The Marys Two did a great job of detailing the proposal issued by Governor Jan Brewer. And in so doing, they demonstrated just how bad things are.

Mary Jo Pitzl wrote the cover story on the budget plan. Mary K. Reinhart wrote on cuts to mental health (a timely and tragic analogue).

Along with their stories was good coverage of cuts to university funding, written by Alia Beard Rau, and a Republic editorial—the point of which still escapes me. But then again, I only read it twice.

A few takeaways I had from today’s news:

  • Nowhere in the Governor’s proposal is there any serious mention of “other funding sources.” Yes, we may charge families an annual fee to visit their loved ones in prison (because, according to Corrections Director Charles Ryan, visits are “a privilege,” and not a valuable part of helping an inmate re-immerse into communities). And there is an acknowledgment that certain state cuts will result in property tax increases. But this administration won’t touch other possibilities with a 10-foot poll.
  • There was scant comment from others who may have a different view. I imagine that will come later, but we may also want to look at the views of Arizona residents. Just last fall, in the run-up to a vote on the one-cent sales tax, Arizonans indicated that they were willing to have their taxes raised for certain things they valued. Not all things, mind you. But they genuinely fear what appears to be an inexorable slide to the Detroit-ing of our state. Cutting our way out of a problem may not be as popular as the Governor’s Office believes—especially when people see their other taxes go up, more mentally ill on the streets, and the only state growth area being prisons. Do we believe our young people will choose to remain in a state like that when they get the chance to leave?
  • The paper’s editorial essentially said that we all need to get involved and tell our state leaders what we value. Um, OK. But along the way, it also informed us that:

Brewer has been a supporter of the universities, but her budget would slash their state funding by 20 percent, on top of previous cuts. Community colleges would lose half of their state support.”

  • It was the first clause that made me spill hot coffee on myself. “A supporter”? Well, she did support the one-cent sales tax, I’ll give her that. But I couldn’t think of any other evidence to support the statement.
  • And then I thought, maybe it’s like this: My neighbors have a loud party that goes into the wee hours. I’ve never really understood the appeal of those neighbors, or even of music, come to think of it, and I’ve always thought the neighbors were too hoity-toity and think too much of themselves. So I grumble, stomp around the house, and consider calling the police. But my wife convinces me just to go to bed, and I do that rather than report them. And later I overcharge them when they buy lemonade from my kids. So I guess I could be called “a supporter” of their party. You know, like that.
  • In the main story, John Arnold is quoted. He is the Director if the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting (whose title should be trimmed to “Budget Director”). He was asked about the Governor’s proposal to seek a waiver from federal mandates that require the state to pay for coverage of “childless adults and curb funding to some low-income parents, and blind and disabled people.” His assessment was that “It’s really cataclysmic if we don’t get the waiver.”
  • From what I’ve read about John Arnold, he sounds like a good guy with good experience. But he may want to look up the dictionary definition of cataclysm. Or, even easier, he should speak to some of those disabled Arizonans whose lives are about to be plunged into disarray and worse if he gets his waiver. They would give him some true insight into the word’s meaning.
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