Arizona is in trouble. Facing a $2.2 billion deficit, the state has the second worst fiscal problems in the country (tied with Rhode Island behind California) according to a November Pew Center study.
State-level lawmakers know they have to come up with a solution. But the Republican controlled legislature refuses to consider raising taxes to address the problem. Thirty nine Republican State Senators and Representatives went so far as to sign a no-tax pledge at the urging of conservative Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform based in D.C.
This week, with their hands tied by the no-tax pledge, Republican legislators floated another idea to save the state of Arizona: ask for donations.
Calling it the "I Didn't Pay Enough" fund, Republican legislators want to let Arizonans voluntarily tax themselves by adding more to the amount they pay in state income tax. Thirty four state lawmakers, all Republican, have already backed the idea and their erstwhile leader, Norquist, heartily approves, calling it "a noble idea... so that people who feel they are undertaxed have a place to send their money."
According to a report in the East Valley Tribune, even the representative who introduced the bill, Republican Judy Burgess, admits that the voluntary tax won't make a dent in the overwhelming Arizona state deficit. Burges agreed that at least part of the reason she proposed the bill was to make an ideological and political point--to show up those who claim people will pay more taxes for services.
Norquist also agrees it's little more than a political joke, since such funds have done little or nothing to help fiscally troubled states in the past. When a smiliar bill was proposed in Kentucky under the title "Tax Me More," Norquist said: "Tax Me More Funds and their sickly low balances are just what the doctor ordered."
The editors of Arizona's two largest newspapers immediately slammed the proposal as a gimmick from the anti-tax crowd. The Arizona Republicin Phoenix published an editorial calling the idea "an ideological stunt," telling the legislature to "spare us the tax jokes" in a time of fiscal crisis. Tucson's Arizona Daily Star called the idea "a distraction," saying "it was crafted to make a point and not to solve a problem."
Bloggers and local leaders also disapprove. One of Arizona's most active political blogs, Blog for Arizona, called it the latest entry from the "GOP 'Gimmicks R Us' Shop." Jeffrey Rogers, Pima County Democratic Chair, called the bill "absolutely ridiculous."
Arizona is indeed in deep trouble. State residents are still waiting for their legislature to propose serious solutions to the ever-growing deficit. If this latest idea is any indication, it might be a long and disastrous wait.
This piece was also published at Examiner.com. Click here to read.
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