On Monday, Governor Ducey told a reporter:
"We're doing what we're asking all of the citizens to do and small businesses, is to tighten their belt and to live within their means."
Governor Ducey is right, Arizonans have been tightening their belts. And he's also correct that we should expect the state to do the same. But this disingenuous statement is just another move in Republican leaders’ shell game where they say one thing and do another.
This statement ignores the fact that while state agency budgets were cut and our schools and universities slashed, the Republicans who made those cuts with one hand were handing out tax cuts for corporations and the rich with the other.
In 2010 voters approved a one-cent sales tax, which was sold as saving education but very little of which end up in our schools. Instead, a good portion of it was used to build more private prisons and give away more tax cuts.
Those tax cuts were sold as "jobs bills," yet our state still lags behind neighboring states in economic recovery. If Republican leaders at the Capitol had spent the one-cent tax revenues on education as promised, Arizona would possibly be more competitive than we are now.
A May 2012 report by ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business explains:
"Regional economic competitiveness is a function of many factors, the most important of which are the quality and availability of the workforce, the quality and availability of infrastructure, and costs. Labor costs are most significant; the tax burden is relatively unimportant."
When the people of Arizona tried to pass another one-cent sales tax in 2012 to support our kids’ education, Ducey and his dark money groups rallied to defeat it.
So here we are, once again, facing a budget crisis and calls for our schools, state agencies and the people of Arizona to "tighten their belts" and make sacrifices.
And here we see, once again, Republican leaders demanding this sacrifice of us while they give away more money for private prisons and as another $675.5 million in tax breaks for corporations are set to go into effect over the next three years.
The people of Arizona don’t want more private prisons and they don’t want more cuts to education. A Morrison Institute for Public Policy poll conducted in late January showed that Arizonans rank education as their top priority and feel that more should be spent on our schools.
It's time for the people of Arizona to say enough is enough and demand their government stop giving away their hard-earned tax dollars and start funding the agencies that protect our citizens and the schools that prepare our children to be competitive in a modern economy.