Governor Brewer released her proposed budget plan for FY 2013. After consecutive years of substantial cuts – last year included nearly half a billion cut from the entire education system alone – Arizona is experiencing a budget surplus.
With this in mind, the Governor outlined her recommendations on what should be the state’s key priorities. While there is relief to be found in not having to further gut programs, many of which are merely shells of what they were prior to the recession, it is entirely too early to tell if Arizona has been saved, as the Governor proclaimed in her State of the State speech.
And despite the Governor’s statement in her budget that “short-term decisions must be evaluated in the light of their impact on the state’s long-term fiscal health” the Proposed FY 2013 budget is substantially short-sighted.
While there are positive things to be found – $50 million to help Arizona third-graders meet academic standards as well as reversing a decision to move Department of Corrections prisoners back to the counties with no additional resources – the budget recommendation lacks strategic vision.
Funding recommendations include:
- $200 million to K-12 for basic soft-capital needs and rollover repayment
- $106 million to re-purchase capitol buildings sold last year
- $30 million for behavioral health needs
- $95 million to update antiquated technology systems
However, the K-12 allocation does not restore funding to a system historically at the bottom nationally for per pupil spending or, most strikingly , address what the state will do when a critical revenue stream, the nearly $1 billion provided by the temporary sales tax increase approved by voters, goes away in 2013.
The Governor’s proposal charges state agencies to pursue 5-year strategic planning within their own programs. While this is admirable, these strategic plans exist in a vacuum. Where is the larger plan for state revenue, thoughtful budgeting and long-term resource allocation?
The Governor’s budget proposal exists in the same vacuum. Viewed through the lens of 2013 alone, we look to be on the road to recovery. Taking into account disappearing revenue and the fiscal cliff we’re careening towards in 2014, we look far from saved.