And now, the tough work begins.Now that Janet Napolitano is officially headed to Washington, and Jan Brewer has been sworn in as governor, our state must grapple, in earnest, with the financial disaster that Napolitano has left us.
And here is agenda item No. 1: Get rid of Napolitano’s traffic cameras.
This is going to be tough. Napolitano has left Arizona with a $2 billion deficit, and according to her own projections, her traffic cam program can produce $90 million in “net profit” in 2009, and $120 million in 2010.
But the very fact that our now-former governor was planning state budgets so that Arizona could “profit” from a program that she alleged was for “public safety” purposes is the very reason to abandon it all together.
Of course, Arizona was facing an approximately $2 billion deficit in 2002 when Napolitano was first elected. And while the state dug itself out of that hole quickly enough, Napolitano sailed through the “boom years” of this decade spending taxpayers’ money indiscriminately and covering up the spending with clever accounting gimmicks — attributing current-day expenditures to future year’s budgets and all the rest.
Even as recently as a year ago, when our new budget deficit had already become painfully evident, Napolitano was arguing that Arizona should begin providing “free tuition” at all of the state’s public universities to any high school student earning a “B” grade average or higher.
So here we are again. In the financial hole, big time. And it’s time to abandon Napolitano’s cynical approaches to budgeting and “public safety.”
The Napolitano traffic cam fund-raising program is one of the most extraordinary efforts in her long, bizarre history of public security measures. She was, after all, the governor who once proposed that the state should grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. She also once insisted in 2003 that the Arizona government had no business involving itself in border security, and that such concerns lie exclusively with the federal government.
But then three years later, during her 2006 re-election campaign, she grabbed international headlines by ordering the Arizona National Guard to the Arizona/Mexico border.
The troops weren’t authorized to do anything, but they were there — at Napolitano’s command — symbolizing that she was doing something about border insecurity.
But as if troops on the border doing nothing isn’t sufficiently cynical, now we’re faced with the traffic cam fund-raising program. Roughly 70 of the planned 100 traffic cams have been installed so far. And they’re everywhere — in the city, in rural regions, all over Arizona — all at the hands of the former governor exercising her executive authority with little input from the Legislature.
Napolitano insisted that they were intended for public safety purposes, yet blatantly referred to them as a central component of her “non-tax increase revenue generation” efforts. And as if that isn’t cynical enough, she also stipulated that citations from the traffic cams would carry no penalty to one’s driving privileges.
So long as you’re willing to write the check and pay off the government, you can keep on violating the law, and the state “profits” all the more.
Sure, there’s no tax increase involved here. But it’s a very clever way to squeeze more money out of Arizona’s citizens, while at the same time making a mockery out of the moral imperative of public safety.
It’s sad to think that America’s new secretary of Homeland
Security is a former Arizona governor who took such lofty concepts as crime-and-punishment and law-and-order and reduced them down to mere cash flow.
But the good news is that Arizona can now plot a different course.