Gov. Janet Napolitano vowed Wednesday to "practice fiscal common sense" in preparing a new state budget even as a key Republican lawmaker said Arizona needs to cut taxes.
The governor said there has been "a lot of loose talk’’ around the Capitol about how healthy state revenue will result in a surplus of $600 million or more. That has resulted in Republican leaders saying a large percentage of the more than $8 billion being collected from Arizonans should be returned to them in the form of lower taxes next fiscal year.
But Napolitano, noting the deficit she inherited when she took office nearly three years ago, suggested massive tax cuts might not be prudent.
"I think we have to manage our affairs so that we never return to those circumstances," she said, "because that was pretty tough."
In fact, Napolitano said part of the reason Arizona ran into trouble was due to a series of income tax cuts enacted during the administration of former Gov. Fife Symington.
"I think there were some very bad decisions made in the ’90s about how to manage the long-term fiscal health of the state, and where to invest to make sure that we grow, and grow in a wise way," she said.
But Symington said Wednesday that Napolitano should be thanking him for the state’s current good financial health. He said those tax cuts enabled individuals and companies to make capital investments and hire more workers, all of which resulted in more income to be taxed.
"She’s never met a dollar that she doesn’t want to spend," Symington said. He said that if the state is collecting more money than it needs, it should reduce what it collects.
That’s also the assessment of Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott. "We need to look at leaving some of this money with the people that are paying so much in that we have this big surplus in the first place," he said.