It is no consolation that virtually every other state in the nation is also facing huge budget deficits, nor is it consolation that California is in worse shape than we are.
There is consolation in the fact that, unlike California, there is hope for Arizona.
Both California and Arizona are in dire budgetary straits as a result of Democrats' wild overspending.
Hold it! I know what you're thinking: "But the Republicans have controlled the state House for more than 40 years, so how is it the fault of the Democrats?" Well, it is true that the Republicans have held a majority for decades, but that is not the same as control. During the administration of Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Democrats were able to lure a number of squishy Republicans into their camp, creating a virtual Democrat majority.
"I like being in the majority," said House Minority Whip Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, to AZcentral.com in 2008, when yet another budget pushed by the Democrats and Napolitano was enacted thanks to help from a handful of Republicans.
So here we are.
What has changed in the Arizona Legislature since the last election cycle is the nature of the Republicans. The squishy ones are pretty much gone. The Republicans are in firm control of both houses. Republicans now in the Legislature will not be seduced, cajoled or intimidated by the Democrats, The Arizona Republic or the Arizona Daily Star from cutting spending back to levels commensurate with revenues. The sweeping of funds, accounting tricks, property sales and even Gov. Jan Brewer's sales-tax increase were not enough to close the huge deficit gap.
Be prepared for much hysteria, name-calling and condemnations from the affected parties. Every agency will claim that any cuts will result in apocalyptic future disasters because of the shortsighted cutting of "investment."
University of Arizona President Robert Shelton is an example. In his recent State of the University address, he used phrases like, "When malevolent people talk about wanting to dismantle and destroy great universities ... ," and, "When you listen to those guys, it's like Groundhog Day meets A Nightmare on Elm Street!—Bill Murray meets Freddie Krueger. (And please understand, I'm playing the Bill Murray character—I keep repeating myself, and they keep slashing people with knives!)"
Bear in mind that this is the language of a fancy-pants $550,000-a-year university president at an official function.
Shelton's miffed because his state general-fund appropriation has been cut by about $100 million over the last few years. He adds, "Yet we have key legislators who have stated publicly—with straight faces, I might add—that we have been untouched and spared any significant cuts."
I suspect that you may be wondering how the "untouched and spared any significant cuts" claim can be made. Well, we can always check the facts. The fiscal year reports from the Arizona Legislature website show the state general-fund cuts in appropriations to the University of Arizona have been as Shelton stated, but the more relevant figures are those showing total revenue: In fiscal year 2007, the UA received $1.211 billion, but $1.266 billion in 2008, $1.305 billion in 2009, and $1.333 billion in 2010.
It's true that the state appropriations make up a smaller percentage of total revenues, but the total revenues of the University of Arizona have increased annually over the last few years. You might even say that the UA has been "untouched and spared significant cuts."
So ... if you are a legislator, and you can cut an appropriation to an agency without reducing its total revenue, might that agency be a good candidate for such cuts?
The real beauty here is that the legislators stated the facts, did the right thing and are not intimidated by deceitful university presidents or anyone else. This is what Arizona needs if we are to fix the budget, recover and prosper.
And what of California? Well, the people of the Golden State elected more of the same people who precipitated its financial crisis. The Democrats still have a lock on the Legislature, and with the election, yet again, of Gov. Jerry Brown, there appear to be no adults in authority.
So be grateful that there is hope and change in Arizona, and pray for California.