Senior Vice President for State Fiscal Policy
Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed a bill last week to impose a rigid cap on her state budget that would have forced even deeper cuts in education, health care, and other services than her state has already enacted.
Brewer is a conservative governor in a conservative state that has enacted four rounds of budget cuts totaling some $2 billion for public schools, universities, hospitals, and local communities. But she rejected this measure, stating in part that “We should learn from the state of Colorado that experimented with a similar measure, and failed.”
Voters in Colorado in 1992 changed the state constitution to prevent revenue and spending increases that exceed the sum of the population growth rate and the inflation rate — a limit known as TABOR. The result was deep cuts in public services beyond what even many conservatives could support. Eventually, a cross-section of business and civic leaders and grassroots organizations — joined by Republican and Democratic elected officials — rebelled, and voters agreed to suspend the limit in 2005.
Informed by that experience, legislators and voters in more than 20 other states have rejected TABOR proposals over the last several years.
The Arizona proposal would have imposed the same sort of budget limit as under TABOR. In blocking it, Governor Brewer was also listening to her constituents, who peppered her office with requests for the veto.
States can cut spending at any time — they don’t need an arbitrary formula to do it for them. And as our analysis of a different Arizona TABOR measure showed, a TABOR formula would be devastating to the state. It would hurt not only Arizona’s children and adults, but also the economy, which relies on educated individuals and up-to-date infrastructure in order to grow.
Governor Brewer was right not to take Arizona down the failed TABOR path.