by Jim Nintzel
So all those Prop 200 supporters who said I was taking Nick Dranias' words out of context last week when I reported that the Goldwater Institute was sending out an op-ed critical of the Public Safety First Initiative can now take a look at his full piece, which is running today in the Arizona Daily Star. They'll notice that he says things like:
Prop. 200 is marketed as an effort to focus Tucson on giving priority funding to core local government services — law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire protection — in order to generate better response times. But the truth is it would just mandate more government spending with no strings attached.
There's nothing in Prop. 200 that limits spending on the new employees to existing tax money. And there's no guarantee that the increased spending needed to fulfill the police and fire mandates would come from current money being spent on non-essential city services. Somewhere, somehow, Tucson taxpayers will have to pay the bill and you can bet that will eventually come in the form of higher taxes.
Perhaps this major new expense could be justified if Prop. 200 included a strong mechanism for ensuring it would actually result in improved public safety. But there is no consequence if the funding does not, in fact, result in better service.
Rather than streamline local government and make it more effective, Proposition 200 would simply guarantee a massive expansion of the city payroll without a guaranteed return.
The inherent flaw with ballot-box budgeting is that citizens vote to mandate a spending obligation without understanding the long-term budget impacts of the proposals. Clearly the proponents prefer it that way.
Sidestepping the city's budgeting process allows the proponents of Proposition 200 to have an isolated budget debate regarding police and fire protection without the unpleasantness of a tax increase to fund it.
Make no mistake; in the end, this process always poorly serves taxpayers who are left questioning why citizens were not properly informed that these services are not free.
In support of Prop 200, Lisa Suarez has an opinion piece that complains that the Realtors have gone to a lot of trouble to put the Public Safety First Initiative on the ballot and she's astonished to see that a "bitter political battle" has been the result.
Then Suarez comes up with this:
There are more options to consider besides huge tax increases or significant cuts to other community services. Unfortunately, it seems that our City Council doesn't want to do the work involved to consider every possible option.
And what are the options besides raising taxes or cutting services to pay for something that will cost $63 million a year once it's fully implemented? Suarez really doesn't explain what they are. Funny how the business community in Tucson—and elsewhere in Arizona—doesn't seem to agree with her on that point.