Brewer should focus on fiscal discipline, not taxes - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Brewer should focus on fiscal discipline, not taxes

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Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2009 5:42 pm | Updated: 1:54 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Austin Hill: Arizona’s leadership could be pointing the way to America’s future. Or it could be about to find its place in America’s messy, reckless, and undisciplined present.

Arizona’s leadership could be pointing the way to America’s future. Or it could be about to find its place in America’s messy, reckless, and undisciplined present.

Last Sunday, a news story emerged statewide indicating that Gov. Jan Brewer was considering a tax increase. According to sources close to the Republican governor — sources who were, of course, speaking “on condition of anonymity” — Brewer had no intention of introducing a tax hike proposal in the Legislature.

She was, however, considering a “special election” for later this year, wherein the voters would have the final word about tax increases on a statewide ballot.

This touched-off wild speculation about which tax might be increased — would it be the statewide gasoline tax, or the sales tax, or the income tax? And by mid-week, Republicans in both the House and Senate were insisting that the tax hike idea was a bad one, and that they couldn’t support it.

Some legislators claimed they had no clue Brewer was considering a tax increase, and that they learned about this alleged situation the same way the rest of us did — through the media. And Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, said that he was going to tell the governor of his “concerns” that she wasn’t communicating clearly with her fellow Republicans.

Well, all this commotion prompted me to talk to some of my “sources” on the Democratic side of the aisle (yes, believe it or not, I have friends who are Democrats). And my sources — who, of course, spoke to me on condition of anonymity — had an interesting theory about the mysterious origins of the tax hike idea.

According to them, Republicans in the Legislature want to raise taxes, but are afraid that doing so would bring about a backlash from voters (duh!). So, as a means of launching a “trial balloon,” the theory purports that certain “anonymous sources” leaked the tax hike idea to the press, and attributed it to the governor's office, as a means of testing people’s reaction to the idea without legislators being blamed for anything.

The Democrats’ theory on the tax hike idea is a bit too “conspiratorial” for me. But regardless of how this speculative frenzy got started, this much we do know: somebody at the state Capitol thought a tax hike was a legitimate means of “fixing” the state budget deficit, but was afraid to say so publicly.

This smacks of both cowardice, and really bad ideas.

For those who actually believe that “just another little tax increase” will “fix” the state's problems, consider our neighbors to the west. There was a time — as recently as 2003 — when California, were it counted as a nation unto itself, entailed the world’s sixth largest economy.

But the state government has so horribly abused its private sector economy with taxation and regulatory policies that now California is somewhere between the eighth and ninth largest economy in the world.

That’s still impressive, but California’s economy has nonetheless declined under the oppression of government.

And now, with the government teetering on collapse from the weight of its own debt, the only solution that Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Democratically-controlled legislature can think of is yet another, sharp tax increase.

Whether its governors who have broke their states’ banks, or private citizens who have made bad choices with mortgages and credit cards, America is seemingly full of people right now who want to be “bailed out” with other people’s tax dollars. Yet, Arizona can set the example of a government that provides an environment for real wealth creation, rather than mere, short-term wealth re-distribution.

Gov. Jan Brewer must lead the way on this one. She must make the tough choices — and transcend America’s messy, reckless, and undisciplined present.

Austin Hill of Gilbert comments on political and social issues every Sunday. He hosts talk radio around the country, and frequently is a guest host for Arizona’s Newstalk KTAR (92.3FM). He is the author of “White House: Confidential — The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History.” and is a national columnist at Contact him at

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