What was once unbelievable news from the State Capital now appears to be a yearly trend when balancing the budget comes around — the state wants more money from cities, towns and counties.
Currently, the state Legislature is proposing to take an estimated $150 million normally doled out to local governments to put yet another Band-Aid on its hemorrhaging financial situation.
While people stress about the trillions of dollars in national debt, the vast majority of states in the country are also guilty of overspending, but on a smaller scale. Arizona is one of 46 other states facing a budget deficit, which could be as much as $1.4 billion for the next fiscal year.
A balance needs to be found if the cities and towns are going to escape Arizona’s fiscal crisis with anything left to show with regard to services they can afford to provide for their residents.
Up to this point, the state Legislature has received some mixed signals from its constituents.
When program cuts and eliminations are proposed, many people squawk it’s not fair to those who rely on said service or the effect it will have on the population as a whole.
However, when budget time rolls around, residents — sometimes the same people who didn’t want any cuts to service — are appalled at the state’s debt.
Cities and towns are then often left to shoulder the burden in both scenarios.
Residents call on local municipalities to supplement services no longer available from the state, and the state takes more and more shared revenue away from cities and towns.
There are three paths to balance the budget that state government can take and there are people who will be upset no matter what.
One direction would be to cut back on government-provided services and trim the state’s expenses. Some argue the state went overboard when it did have a steady cash flow and now we’re paying for it.
Another option for the state, very unpopular with local governments, is to continue to be stingy with shared revenues.
The third option is for the state to find alternative sources of revenue. While Arizona will always be a vacation destination and make money off its visitors, there has to be more.
If the economic downturn has taught us anything, it’s that tourism doesn’t provide a stable income.
While the state works to solve its problems, passing the buck off to cities and towns really isn’t a solution.
Cities and towns are suffering on their own and finding ways to diversify their economies. The state handing down its problems isn’t fair to local staff nor elected officials. It puts more dirt in the hole they too are trying to dig themselves out of.
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