24 December 2008
Dear Arizona Taxpayer,
We have received some good news from our colleagues at the Goldwater
In a unanimous ruling on Tuesday, the Arizona Court of Appeals struck down
the city of Phoenix's $97 million subsidy for the CityNorth shopping mall.
The Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, led by
Clint Bolick, had challenged the subsidy on the grounds that it violated
the Arizona Constitution Gift Clause. Today the court agreed, declaring
that "these payments are exactly what the Gift Clause was intended to
If it holds, the CityNorth decision will be a great victory for Arizona
taxpayers. The Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity worked this
year with legislative allies (including departing Sen. Karen Johnson) to
tighten up the language of the Gift Clause, so that future courts could not
interpret away its content. But if Arizona courts will do the right thing,
and finally begin interpreting the gift clause properly, they will save us
a lot of work, and they will save taxpayers millions of dollars.
And speaking of Goldwater, we have pasted below the latest Tribune column
from Goldwater chairman Tom Patterson, who reminds us that the really good
news for Arizona taxpayers begins in late January, when our big-spending
incumbent governor will leave for Washington, DC, allowing more responsible
persons to begin cleaning up her mess.
For Liberty, Tom
Erase Napolitano's Legacy
By Tom Patterson
East Valley Tribune
December 20, 2008
As Janet Napolitano leaves Arizona for greener pastures in D.C., we should
acknowledge that in many respects she was an innovative governor who
changed the culture of her office. But not in a good way - most of the
precedents she established need to be reversed as soon as possible.
Her predecessors generally recognized the need for responsible management
of the budget. A "balanced budget" meant that appropriations had to be
matched with appropriate revenue streams, even if revenues were down. In
the case of rising revenues, Fife Symington's administration responded in
the 1990s with tax cuts, establishment of the rainy day fund and moderate
Napolitano's reaction to both lean and fat budget years (she experienced
both) was basically the same: spend, spend and spend some more. The result,
when the explosive growth in baseline budgets met today's inevitable
decline in revenues, is Arizona's huge budget deficit which is highest in
the nation (per capita). We'll work our way out of it, but it won't be
pretty and it didn't need to happen.
Napolitano also earned the dubious distinction of being the first Arizona
governor to introduce debt to balance general fund budgets. Previously,
this option wasn't seriously considered. After all, debt for operating
expenses was wildly imprudent and unconstitutional to boot. The assumption
of earlier governors that taxes must be raised to pay for excess
appropriations was a pretty effective curb on spending.
All that changed, hopefully not forever, when the governor insisted on debt
financing for budget items normally paid for with cash. Bad idea.
Check out the horrifying spectacle in Washington to see what can happen
when politicians' desire to maintain popularity is untethered from fiscal
Arizona's debt load is miniscule compared to the federal government's,
partly because the governor did get significant blowback from legislative
Republicans on the issue. Meanwhile, the governor got to brag that she
fully funded everything and even initiated full-day kindergarten, subsidies
to favored businesses and other goodies, all without raising taxes!
But state government, unlike the feds, can't control the money supply or
influence rates. For Arizona, just like you and me, debt must be repaid.
Debt service will be an albatross around the neck of the adults who will be
straining to balance the budget for years to come.
Napolitano also put her own stamp on legislative relations. Governors
typically employ staff to work with the Legislature on pending legislation.
Even when the governor and Legislature are of different parties, mutual
persuasion and searching for common ground are the respectful way to
Napolitano, though, repeatedly claimed that she didn't comment on
legislation until it "hit her desk." Although this self-serving "policy"
was often honored in the breech, it fomented a needlessly confrontational
relationship between the branches of government. The low point was in 2005,
when the governor, after the Legislature adjourned, vetoed items she had
agreed to accept in earlier negotiations. Such boorish behavior, unheard of
even in political circles, naturally undermined trust and cooperation.
The result of this imperial style was government by veto. Napolitano set
all-time records for vetoes and often seemed to be looking for ways to pad
her totals. She was photographed with a big grin, proudly holding her veto
stamp. It may have made great political theater, but it was lousy
governance. Vetoes may occasionally be necessary, but they are a poor
substitute for good communication and at least trying to work together.
Napolitano was so hugely popular with the major media that she was largely
excused for such antics as intimidating (through an aide) a state
commission into illegally changing "Squaw Peak" to "Piestewa Peak."
She was allowed to hijack money meant for other projects to fund her pet
project, the Western States Climate Initiative. She got by with claiming
credit for the positive effects of tax cuts she had fought against. Even
though she paid little price politically, it's still important for future
governors to understand that they must live by the same laws and rules as
the rest of us.
Incoming governor Jan Brewer should move aggressively and conspicuously to
restore sound practices to the office. We don't want the legacy of the past
six years to become the Arizona way.
--East Valley resident Tom Patterson (email@example.com) is a retired
emergency room physician and former state senator.