Thursday, February 5, 2009

Arizona’s Retromingent Budget

Arizona’s Retromingent Budget
Sen. Debbie McCune Davis (D-14, Phoenix)

As I watched (most of) my Republican colleagues adopt the ’09 budget fix in the wee hours of Saturday morning, the only word that came to mind was retromingent. I knew I had heard this word in a legislative context used before by former State Senator Peter Kay of Phoenix, but I could not recall it fitting any similar situation quite as well as this one. I thank him for introducing me to this most interesting word.

The 2009 budget fix, though necessary, was not thoroughly vetted through the legislative process due to a leadership-imposed deadline of February 1. It is my personal belief that no one involved in the budget process, including leadership, budget committee chairs, and staff, knew the impact of the actions being taken. Numbers just had to add up on paper. Most conversations about the budget took place outside the public eye, so we can only speculate about questions asked and answered in those settings. The evidence will come clear in the next few days as state agencies and public/private sector partners describe the programmatic carnage.

So, how does a budget become retromingent, you ask? It occurs when budget cuts or fund sweeps go beyond the number of dollars available. The budget cuts and fund sweeps didn't stop at taking available funds, but in many cases cut into funds that were already obligated through grants or contracts. The question that remains unanswered is whether these cuts require the return of funds to the State that are in the hands of programs and partners already engaged in activity on behalf of the State. Take backs, if required, seem clearly retromingent to me. Particularly when we are talking about economic development funds, or research and development funds, or scholarship funds or human services, etc. You get the picture…

My experience tells me there are more of these actions in the budget than you think. A good example of retromingent behavior comes to mind when you think of the actions of Representative Sam Crump (R-Anthem) and his gang of five demanding depletion of the Arizona 21st Century Competitive Initiative Fund. Heaven forbid we strive to get out of the rut of depending on real estate for our economic vitality and broaden our vision and expertise in biomedical research, information/communications technology, and sustainable systems. Pity the poor entrepreneur that went through extensive due diligence to qualify for a grant from Science Foundation Arizona and now may have to return the money. I'm pretty sure they'll long remember the full impact of the retromingent budget cuts as promises made and then broken. Picture that as you think of the “Crump bunch” gleefully demanding these funds be cut…but be cautious. You won’t want to be too close when you learn the true meaning of retromingent.

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