Legislators frequently express frustration that voter mandates tie their hands when working to govern Arizona and craft a budget that is responsive to the state’s needs.
However, what is rarely mentioned is that one of the most restrictive, counter-productive constraints in Arizona law when it comes to budgeting is the requirement that any proposed revenue increase must pass out of the legislature with a supermajority. This requirement was the shackle that kept the legislature from passing Governor Brewer’s temporary sales tax and required voters to step in and get it done.
So, does this mean there is a movement afoot to ask voters to remove that restriction? Just the opposite. HCR 2043, which successfully passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee on February 7th, proposes that any, yes, any, revenue increase require a supermajority of Arizona’s voters. This means that while any other ballot measure, or legislative race for that matter, can be won with a simple majority, to increase revenue will require the likely impossible blessing of two-thirds of all participating voters.
Keep in mind, tax cuts require only a simple majority, and not surprisingly are not included in this legislative proposal.
Even more far-reaching? The current proposal recommends having voters retro-actively weigh in on revenue decisions going back to 2002.
Why, after a number of exceptionally difficult fiscal years where lack of flexibility was a rallying cry, are they now suddenly seeking to tie their own hands even further?
Keep in mind, this debate is occurring simultaneous to discussions around HCR 2005, which suggests voters reauthorize voter mandates to ensure the financial obligations approved during one part of the economic cycle still make sense years down the line.
Tax policy is the scaffolding on which all public policy decisions are built. What we fund, and how much we fund it for, are the most important choices lawmakers make.
However, they are looking to create the largest, most unwieldy restriction to successfully completing that job yet.