Politics plays into raiding state funds - East Valley Tribune: News

Politics plays into raiding state funds

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Posted: Friday, December 18, 2009 5:01 pm | Updated: 2:22 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The legislation prepared for Senate action on Thursday included about $55 million in raids on various funds. But the measure was altered before it reached the floor.

So when it comes to sweeping special accounts to balance the budget, it turns out that not all funds are created equal.

The legislation prepared for Senate action on Thursday included about $55 million in raids on various funds. But the measure was altered before it reached the floor to restore close to $500,000 that had been planned to be taken from a particular fund that benefits the users of off-road vehicles.

So why is that more important than other funds being taken, ranging from domestic violence shelters and child abuse prevention to those aimed at halting racketeering and protecting consumers?

"It's not," said Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa. "It's not my decision."

Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, also was unwilling to take the blame. Burns said House Republican leaders needed to exempt the off-road vehicle funds for political reasons: They needed the vote of a particular lawmaker.

House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, would not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

But Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, outed himself. He told Capitol Media Services his vote on the budget cuts was contingent on the fund being left untouched.

Weiers said it wouldn't be fair to take the money.

"Because they're fees," he said, with off-road vehicle users paying $30 a year for the permit.

"People are paying fees for specific usages such as keeping trails open, such as law enforcement, such as signage, maps, coordinates, mitigation," Weiers explained.

"And if you start taking those fees and put them toward the general fund (you're) treating them like a tax," he said. "They're not a tax. They're a fee."

But the legislative plan raids other accounts financed by fees like those on boaters to improve lakes and utility ratepayers for consumer protection by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Weiers was unimpressed.

"It's not exactly like it would hurt my feelings if the Corporation Commission went away either," he quipped.

That annoyed commission chairwoman Kris Mayes.

She said some of the fees being swept come from firms that incorporate in the state. The cash, Mayes said, covers the cost of running that division.

If that division has less money, she said it will take longer for companies to set up shop - and to start stimulating the state economy.

"People will go to other states," said Mayes, estimating that, at this rate of fund losses, it could take up to 246 days for a firm to get legal authority to operate here. "So I guess I just respectfully disagree that it's more important to fund off-road vehicle recreation than it is to form new businesses in Arizona."

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