For those of you still with us: The state remains in economic freefall, with a new report showing "an economy that is rapidly deteriorating."
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee's monthly bulletin reveals that state income-tax collections dropped nearly 31 percent in January compared to this time last year.
Overall, the latest JLBC numbers show that January's revenues--which include sales taxes and corporate-income taxes, in addition to personal-income taxes--were 21.9 percent lower than January 2008. That collapse is particularly calamitous when you consider that revenues in January 2008 had dropped 14.4 percent compared to January 2007. Translated into English, one-third of the money the state was bringing in two years ago has evaporated.
In raw numbers, the state brought in nearly $82 million less than predicted in its most recent revised forecast. The report warns that if the economy continues to tailspin, lawmakers may need to cut an additional $425 million--on top the $1.6 billion in cuts made at the end of January--just to balance the budget for the current fiscal year that ends in June.
That grim news came as the state's Department of Commerce released its latest employment reports, which reveal that unemployment had reached 7 percent, and job losses were continuing to mount. Over the last 12 months ending in January, Arizona had shed 155,400 jobs, which was the largest 12-month loss since the state began tracking numbers in 1939.
A few more unhappy numbers: The number of building permits issued in 2008 was at its lowest level since 1975; and as foreclosures continue to rise, the median price of a single-family home in the Phoenix metro area dropped 44 percent from January 2008.
As the bad economic news piles up, Gov. Jan Brewer has started floating trial balloons regarding the possibility of going to the ballot with a tax hike and a loosening of voter-mandated spending.
Brewer was expected to reveal her plans in an address to lawmakers this week.
In other news from the Capitol: The Senate remains focused on creating a budget, meaning that the leadership has not yet allowed committees to hear other legislation dealing with guns, divorce laws or stripping health benefits from domestic partners of gay state employees.
But House Speaker Kirk Adams was pushing committees in his chamber to hear any and all bills by the end of this week. Among the legislation on the move:
• House Bill 2150, which bans hog-dog fights, passed the House Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote. Since the state has banned cockfighting and dog-fighting, sadistic fuckwits are now apparently turning vicious dogs loose on hogs as a spectator sport. This inspired Rep. Kyrsten Sinema to sponsor the legislation.
"Killing a pig with dogs is evil," says Sen. Jonathan Paton, who has sponsored a similar bill in the Senate. "It's like a training ground for serial killers or something."
Paton added that there would be exceptions to allow hunters to use their dogs in legitimate wildlife pursuits.
"Contrary to popular opinion, this bill will not affect falconry," says Paton.
• House Bill 2564, an omnibus abortion bill, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee 5-0, with Democrats walking out rather than casting votes.
The legislation spells out specific requirements a judge must consider when allowing a minor to seek an abortion without parental permission; creates a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion after she meets with her doctor; specifies detailed information that a doctor must tell a woman before she has an abortion; and allows pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception or other abortion medication.
• House Bill 2608, which would have created a new form of consumer lending that allows steep fees on loans ranging from $200 to $3,000, failed to advance out of the House Banking and Insurance Committee after a 4-4 vote.
• House Bill 2557, which would create a study committee of health-care providers and insurance-company execs to examine how to reduce insurance paperwork, passed the Banking and Insurance Committee on a 6-2 vote. Tucson Democrat Matt Heinz, who works as an emergency-room doctor, worked with Republican Rep. Cecil Ash to craft the legislation, which amended a different bill that Heinz had sponsored at the start of the session.
Heinz says that the health-care industry needs to cut back on the number of forms that are required.
"The focus needs to be on patients, not paperwork," Heinz says.