A play on an old saying: “Those who can, govern. Those who can’t, join a think tank.”
Not too long ago, the State of Arizona was facing a financial cliff like no other state in the nation. After years of overspending and living beyond her means, Governor Napolitano skipped town and never looked back. Saddled with over $3 billion in debt, Governor Brewer took over and was left to clean up.
Governor Brewer set forth a plan, cut $1 billion, borrow $1 billion, and for the first time in her career, support a temporarily increase taxes to raise $1 billion a year for three years. Her willingness to put her reputation on the line and promote Proposition 100 was the key, not only to her election to a second term, but to the financial stability that our state enjoys today.
Her steadfast support for reduced spending, streamlining and reducing the size of government, and the enforcement of immigration laws have earned her great opprobrium from the left.
You would think that this type of fiscal responsibility and conservatism would earn her accolades from conservative/liberty focused think tanks like Cato Institute, right?
Wrong. Cato’s new report grading America’s Governors gave Governor Brewer a “D“, the same score they awarded to California Governor Jerry Brown and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor Brewer earned the same score as Governor Brown who is pushing for a permanent sales tax increase, an income tax increase, broadened corporate tax increases and vehicle tax increases.
The problem is that “think tanks” like the Cato Institute are rarely thoughtful. Rarely, do they take a pragmatic approach to understanding state spending or government policies. They look at numbers like “proposed per capita spending” and see that Governor Brewer proposed an increase last year. They don’t ask why (because the state had cut so much) and for what (education capital needs). They see black and white; checkmarks on their rubric.
Both sides of the aisle have decided compromise is not cool. This inflexibility has lead to the death of cooperation in politics and the terminally low congressional approval ratings. Tax pledges, score cards, and lack of flexibility have created uncertainty in government and in our economy.
This type of “liberty at all costs” creates a massive amount of economic uncertainty as it relates to the fiscal cliff, which the Catos of this world apparently want us to head over. As we have said before, the greatest things a government can do for business is create an environment of stability and predictability, work with balanced budgets to avoid even greater debt, provide for a safe society, and foster an educated workforce.
This is exactly what Governor Brewer did for Arizona and that is why the economic comeback has begun. But was that enough for Cato? No. Anything short of Arizona cutting $3 billion from its budget is sacrilege to think tanks like them. On the other hand, as we are seeing in the current education debate, to do anything short of permanently increasing taxes and handcuffing the “evil” legislature is heretical for the other side.
We need to replace the “think” with “thoughtful” and start to bring people together to solve the problems that face our state and nation, instead of finding even more ways to divide them.