When Revolution Meets Reality

Governor Symington says his massive tax cuts have brought prosperity to Arizona. Actually, they are bringing on a fiscal train wreck that could damage the state for decades.

State spending on corrections has leaped upward. In 1992, the state spent $255 million on adult corrections. This year, the corrections budget is $367 million, a 44 percent increase in four years. And the corrections budget leaps to $438 million next year.

The massive spending cuts expected to be produced by Symington's budgetary policies will come in programs that already are minimally funded in comparison to other states.

Arizona ranks below average in per capita spending on education, health and welfare, according to state reports. But it ranks very high in social dysfunction.

Arizona ranks third among the 50 states in the percentage of teenagers who are high school dropouts. Arizona has the dubious distinction of ranking first in the nation for the number of births to unmarried females. Arizona is 36th in the country in regard to the percentage of children living in poverty. The state has the third-highest crime rate in the country, after Florida and Texas.

These types of statistics, however, are not of primary concern to many of the Republican revolutionaries involved in Arizona's budgeting process.

For example, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Springer says the state Constitution is her guidepost in making budget decisions.

And, Springer says, the Constitution's top priority is for government to protect the citizens. For Springer, that means ensuring adequate police protection, a fair court system and secure prisons.

"That is our role," she says.
After providing for public safety, the state has a secondary duty to provide public education, Springer says. This role, she says, should be limited, particularly in regard to universities and community colleges.

Beyond those two areas, Springer says, there are few other constitutionally mandated duties for state government.

And in Springer's world, spending on social, health and welfare programs is most certainly not a state obligation.

"There is no place in the Constitution that says the statehas to provide health care or food stamps or any ofthatkind of stuff," she says.

With strong support from the Legislature, Arizona Governor J. Fife Symington III has nearly accomplished his goal. He has cut taxes and set the state on a course that closely parallels the limited government foreseen by the Contract With America.

As Symington said in his budget message to the state in January 1994, "Steadily and without fanfare, we have turned the state around."

The question is: In what direction?

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