Make the budget cuts already - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Make the budget cuts already

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Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 1:46 pm | Updated: 1:10 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Arizona lawmakers are back at the state Capitol, seeking to chip away once more at the monstrous state deficit.

Arizona lawmakers are back at the state Capitol, seeking to chip away once more at the monstrous state deficit.

Gov. Jan Brewer called the Legislature back to work Tuesday after weeks of private negotiations to resolve differences left in the wake of Brewer's budget vetoes in September. Legislative leaders hope to wrap up the work quickly and end the special session on Thursday.

That's just as well, given that the Legislature isn't expected to consider any innovative ideas or new steps to keep the state's fiscal house from complete collapse. Basically, Brewer has agreed to accept some of the budget cuts she rejected before, allowing the Legislature to erase only $300 million of a projected $2 billion shortfall. Still, taking some action now is slightly better than doing nothing, as every day that the state spends more money it doesn't have makes it even harder for top officials to close the gap.

However, we have to share the disappointment of folks such as the Goldwater Institute, which on Tuesday noted that Louisiana's governor and legislature have reacted to a similar funding crisis with a series of long-range reforms that will permanently streamline government operations. Louisiana has identified $1.5 billion in savings while eliminating more than 70 boards and commissions and lifting spending mandates on "protected" areas of the state budget.

Arizona's lawmakers have made few changes along those lines so far, focusing instead on one-time asset sales and accounting gimmicks to get the state by until next year. But the crisis keeps getting worse, and state government needs to get serious about fiscal reform.

On a related budget note, the state Department of Health Services released Monday its revised schedule of licensing fees for day care centers, which won't be as expensive as previously proposed but still will be sharp increases. Interim Health Services Director Will Humble said day care centers can reduce their license fees by half if they follow a strict regimen of behaviors to promote healthy lifestyles for children. The public reaction was a sigh of relief that the outcome wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

But it's still bad. The state should enforce minimum safety standards and then allow innovation and parental choice to guide day care operations. What's being touted as a generous subsidy actually is a further expansion of the nanny-state mentality.

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