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Tim Wiederaenders: Budgets, holdouts, water, sausage — what a mess!

By Tim Wiederaenders Guest ColumnistMay 19, 2019

While I know budgets are not the sexiest of topics (kinda like watching paint dry), you have to admit the Arizona legislature and governor have quite the challenge this year.

Here’s a compilation.

First, the GOP has slim majorities, and just enough Republicans are holding out on the budget — wanting what they want – resulting in an impasse or gridlock.

It’s noble, for instance, with some pushing for more time for victims of sexual assault and abuse to be able to sue their attackers. The latest offer has failed, with the proponent holding out for more (to give victims seven years to file suit from the time they report the incident).

One idea bringing lawmakers together is to cut income taxes in future years. Yet, that flies in the face of Gov. Doug Ducey, who wants surpluses directed toward the “rainy day” fund.

It gets even better: One Republican is withholding support of the budget if the state keeps the extra money taxpayers are paying, based on the changes in the federal tax code; another has vowed to withhold support until lawmakers repeal the $32-a-vehicle Motor Vehicle registration fee; and still another is holding out for more money for social service programs and other priorities.

The holdouts leave Senate GOP leadership, for example, without the 16 votes needed to adopt a spending plan, which is expected to be unveiled on Monday to some degree, according to Capitol Media Services.

Add into the mix the fact that state lawmakers are in overtime; since they did not finish in time, their pay goes down by two-thirds (call it a motivating factor). No budget, no vacation.

Instead of watching paint dry, let’s quote Otto von Bismarck: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” In other words, the legislative process, though messy and sometimes unappetizing, can produce healthy, wholesome results.

Hmmm. We’ll see, folks.

• WATER WOES — Here’s another impact on the state budget – which is supposed to further help teachers, by the way (sorry, had to say it; remember #RedForEd?).

Now we have Central Arizona farmers — who stand to lose access to Colorado River water, based on a federal settlement — wanting $20 million to dig wells and build canals in preparation.

They say it would be repaid by the federal government (sounds too easy and convenient to me; if that’s the case, why not get the money from the feds in the first place?).

That $20 million would come from the budget surplus too. Seems farmers between Phoenix and Tucson face the most drastic cuts under the seven-state plan to take less water from the drought-stricken river, the Associated Press reported.

With water rights based on seniority and in a shortage, they — the junior players — lose out first.

Why are they “junior”? Get this, they agreed in the early 2000s to take the lowest-priority position … for cheaper water. They didn’t think they could lose access until 2027.

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