Has anyone else noticed the eerie broken-record tone of our local interest groups and news outlets regarding our budget crisis?
They almost always start with no more specific reason for their objection to a policy other than some version of the "harm to vital services" argument that gets made by everyone who doesn't want cuts in their areas of interest. The bottom line is, with the level of cuts that must be made to balance our state budget, there is going to be "harm to vital services." Period.
Next, they invariably try to tie economic damage to the particular cut they oppose, which is pretty hollow when the likely trade-off of not cutting will be tax increases. It's laughable to make the case that some of these options are anything but tangentially related to the state's economy when compared to taxes. Yes, cuts will "damage the economy" but they do so in the same way that cuts "harm vital services" - every cut affects the economy.
So, to get out of this intellectual quagmire, I would like to present a way we can measure the arguments before us. I suggest that Arizonans focus on two critical questions:
1) Does the proposal come to the table with its hand out?
Useful suggestions will be those that say to our elected representatives, "This program is so important to us that we are willing to do (BLANK) to save it." Come to the table with something in your hands and we will be making progress instead of all of us fighting over the same tired territory week after week and it becoming a game of king of the hill where the one who simply outlasts everyone else gets their program funded. Figure out a way to grow the pie and then come asking for partnership instead of welfare.
2) Does the proposal put first things first?
Serious proposals will be explicitly formed in order to preserve those services that no one else but our state and local governments can perform. I would suggest those are police, fire and roads. While making cuts to areas outside of these three is truly very painful there is someone in the field (social service groups, health care, education, et cetera). In the three areas I mentioned, however, there is no one.
You can have a wish list of what you want governmental bodies to fund but in the end those areas must be handled by our City Council, county board and state Legislature. The rest is just that, a wish list.
Wish lists are things kids send to Santa. Adults know that there is limited money at the holidays and kids can't get everything they want. It's time to be adults about this instead of whiny spoiled children.
Children demand … adults ask. Children cry when they don't get their way … adults look for win-win positions. Children want with no expectation of returning anything to the giver ... adults understand that you must give (both dollars and effort) in return for getting something of value.
I hope we can turn off the broken record and start judging the opinions and propositions around us like adults.
Taylor Davidson is a longtime resident, business owner, and blogger in Southern Arizona at www.theblahgosphere.com