June 28, 2011
Maricopa County again "donates" to help state balance its books
The Maricopa County Finance Department has hand-delivered a notable gift to the State of Arizona: A check for $28.6 million. The cash "contribution" was required to be turned over by June 30, 2011, by an order enacted last year by the state legislature.
The legislature has demanded several such "contributions" in the last four years in order to help the state balance its annual budgets and recently enacted yet another cash contribution that will be due next year. These forced payments total more than $130 million to Maricopa County taxpayers.
County supervisors aren’t all that pleased about their "voluntary contributions."
"The legislature’s practice of shifting its problems to county taxpayers is disappointing," stated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Kunasek, of Phoenix. "Maricopa County leaders have worked very hard to avoid debt and make the hard decisions necessary to use our limited resources wisely. We simply can’t keep paying more and more of the state’s bills every year."
In addition to the cash contribution, this year the legislature took more than $31 million from funds that were designated to pay for Maricopa County’s transportation projects and shifted more than $36 million worth of state programs to the county’s budget.
"We are supposed to be partners, the state and county governments," commented Supervisor Max Wilson, of Litchfield Park. "Our constituents are their constituents. Our taxpayers are their taxpayers. So it doesn’t make such sense to keep double taxing the same people."
This is not a new issue for Maricopa County officials, who have been trimming their own budgets by some $300 million since 2007, ever since the economic recession first hit revenues. On March 10, Kunasek, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery warned the cost shifts could cripple the county’s ability to maintain current services. They said the legislators should not "rob Peter to pay Paul."