Gov. Jan ‘Fiscally Responsible’ Brewer leaves office this month, and she’s handing her successor, Doug Ducey, a budget deficit of half a billion dollars. The projected deficit for the next fiscal year is $1 billion. That didn’t stop her, however, from ending 2014 by handing out fat bonuses to already well-paid staffers.
An investigation by the Arizona Republic revealed that the biggest bonuses were for $10,000 each and went to 10 separate people, eight of whom are already making $125,000 a year. Smaller bonuses, still in the thousands, were given to 12 others.
The money was described as retention bonuses, which at least makes some sense. They were meant to keep staffers with Brewer for the final year of her term as governor. After all, what else could motivate them to stick with the woman?
The Brewer administration has no problem flinging around taxpayer money as long as it doesn’t benefit taxpayers. In December, the Republic also revealed that state officials gave pay raises, some topping 40 percent, to 169 employees without the Department of Administration’s approval, which is required by law.
The mounting deficit has everything to do with irresponsibility. Brewer and the Republican-dominated legislature have cut taxes repeatedly over the years, and many of these cuts have been geared at corporate taxes in particular. As a result, they’ve cut certain services to the bone — frivolous expenditures, like education for example.
The state’s Republican mantra has been a familiar one: corporations would flood to Arizona thanks to the tax breaks and create so many new jobs that revenue would flow like a river into state coffers. Unfortunately, it did flow like an Arizona ‘rivers’: being little more than dry creek beds. As a matter of fact, the recovery from the recession that has been taking place across the nation has largely left Arizona behind.
According to a new report in November, Arizona ranks next to last in recovery of jobs that were lost during the Great Recession. Only Nevada has a worse record. And one underlying problem: why would corporations want to invest their resources in a state that doesn’t even bother to give its population an adequate education? And why wouldn’t state officials recognize that this issue might be a problem?
Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D-Tucson) is braced for things to get worse under the incoming legislature. He said:
“[Republicans] always try to cut education further and further, which is self-defeating and disastrous.”
With education and job growth pretty much sabotaged, people aren’t moving to Arizona in the numbers they used to. The state is especially less attractive to foreigners now that its officials have shown a deep hostility towards immigrants and immigration reform. So there goes the housing industry. No new people, no new homes. This is problematic since housing construction has long been the backbone of Arizona’s economy.
In other ways, Gov. Brewer and her merry band of GOP legislators have put up ‘Do Not Enter’ signs on state borders rather than ‘Welcome’ banners. There was also the fight to not only prevent marriage equality in Arizona but to actually allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals — or anyone else — based on religious objections. Companies that were ready to relocate to Arizona suddenly balked when that hate bill, SB 1062, passed. Business leaders went into a panic over the climate the measure would create and finally prevailed upon Brewer to veto the measure.
Neither a new governor nor a new legislature is going to sort out the havoc that Brewer and the previous legislature have wreaked. Republican governor-elect Doug Ducey has made the same tired old promises: no new taxes to attract corporations and increase revenue. The new legislature will continue to be dominated by Republicans.
So who cares if Brewer tosses around taxpayer money so freely? Apparently not the voters, most of whom make a fraction of what Brewer’s staffers make. If anyone cares, it might be all those people who live elsewhere and think maybe, just maybe, Arizona’s weather would make up for its political shortfalls.
Those people might want to consider the concerns of Sen. Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix). When she thinks about the probability that the incoming legislature will refuse to raise taxes and also make further cuts, she noted:
“You can’t just keep talking about cutting, cutting, cutting, because we’ve really cut things back to almost the point where we don’t have sustainable government anymore.”
Don’t want a sustainable government? How about government-provided services — like education? By all means, move to Arizona. If you’re really lucky, maybe you can go make your fortune working for the governor.