Phoenix Mayor Gordon Won't Support Latest Budget Bill; Governor Brewer "Disappointed" in Some State Senators

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon says he can't support the legislature's current budget proposal, despite Governor Jan Brewer's urging to do so. In a news release sent out this evening by the city (see text below), Gordon says changes to property tax collection rates will lower the amount of bond money Phoenix could obtain by $160 million. That will mean fewer new public safety buildings, libraries, senior centers and other infrastructure needs, he says. The new budget takes away about $18 million in city funds that go toward public safety, and a moratorium on building code changes will have the negative effect of blocking "green" building programs and making it tougher for small businesses to re-use existing buildings, the mayor says. Gordon advocates bringing both Democrats and Republicans into the budget-making process, which is "what cities do." We're not sure how he figures that will help, though -- don't the Dems just want to add to the spending side? Either way, it seems that, in looking for support, Brewer called the wrong mayor. Yet Brewer indicates she's also looking for a bi-partisan solution. In her own e-mailed statement this evening, Brewer says renewed efforts to craft a workable budget are now underway (um, yeah, but they've been underway for weeks without any progress). The Republican governor praises her fellow party members, but she also says she's "disappointed" with some state senators, apparently referring to three Republicans who voted to shoot down her idea for a sales-tax hike.

Text of Gordon's statement follows:

Statement of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon Following his Meeting with Governor Jan Brewer August 12, 2009

I appreciate the commitment that Governor Brewer has made to protect public safety and other important local services that are provided by cities and towns throughout the state. The Governor and members of the House and Senate have worked on the budget for seven months. While I appreciate their efforts, we have seen neither a budget nor a budget proposal that will not significantly harm the City of Phoenix and its residents.

Last night the Governor called and asked me to meet to solicit my active support for the budget package now under consideration by the State Senate. Unfortunately, that package is not the same as the budget plan the Phoenix City Council and I were willing to support several months ago.

Changes to the package over the last several months which have significant negative impacts to Phoenix and other Arizona cities and towns include:

· An acceleration in the shift in property tax assessment ratios that will mean $160 million less capacity in the next Phoenix bond program. That means 160 million fewer dollars for much-needed, critical infrastructure projects that crate private-sector jobs like building police and fire stations, senior centers, libraries and streets.

· The inclusion of $400 million in corporate and income tax cuts which will mean an annual reduction of $18 million in revenue sharing to Phoenix, resulting in cuts to public safety which now comprises 70 percent of the city's budget.

· A retroactive moratorium on any changes to building codes for the next two years, which would make it impossible to implement recommendations of the City's Adaptive Re-Use Task Force. Those changes would make it easier for small businesses to renovate existing buildings by easing unnecessary building requirements. Cities would also be unable to modify codes to allow for green technologies as simple as rainwater re-use.

These issues currently make it impossible for me to support the budget proposal that is currently on the table.

Passing a budget just to be able to say "We passed a budget" is fraught with danger and we cannot risk the unintended consequences that are sure to come out of this package (which underwent none of the scrutiny that the normal legislative process is supposed to provide).

I remain committed to a positive resolution to this crisis. Just as all of Arizona's cities and towns have been able to balance their budgets through hard work, open dialogue and tough choices, the State can and should do the same. So I encouraged the Governor and her staff to do what cities do -- reach out to moderates, both Republicans and Democrats, to develop a bi-partisan budget. Relying on a single political party for the last seven months has simply not been productive for Arizona.

I've also offered the resources of City budget, finance, and economic development experts to look at the cumulative impacts of the budget package on local public safety and future economic development. Again, I appreciate Governor Brewer's willingness to listen to my concerns and her efforts on behalf of the people of the State. Working together regardless of political affiliation or ideology is what has made Arizona successful in the past and will make us great in the future.

I remain optimistic that if we work together, we will develop a budget that I can support, together with the majority of residents throughout the state.

Next up, the text of Brewer's August 12 statement:

STATEMENT BY GOVERNOR JAN BREWER "I trust the people of Arizona. But, I am deeply disappointed that some Members of the Arizona State Senate do not. They have so little trust in the voters, that they would once again delay the passage of a sound state budget, and deny the people an opportunity to protect critical funding for education, public safety, and care for our most vulnerable citizens. Their actions are irresponsible, create an increasing cost to state taxpayers and, if not resolved quickly, will do irreparable harm to our families and our economic future.

"I commend the courage, vision, and leadership of the Republican Members of the Arizona House and Arizona Senate and thank them for their support of a compromise budget package that could meet with my approval, address our historic shortfall, and provide a platform for a successful economic future. As I have stated on numerous occasions since I took office last January, the state budget is neither a Republican, nor a Democratic problem, it is a problem for all of Arizona and should be addressed promptly and responsibly. The Members of the House and Senate who have supported a pragmatic, reasonable resolution of the budget shortfall have my gratitude, and should be commended by the citizens of the State of Arizona.

"I intend to continue to work with legislators from both sides of the aisle to construct a budget package that will honestly and objectively address our state's massive budget deficit. Indeed those efforts are well underway this evening."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.