Difficult budget decisions face supermajority Legislature

By Christy Farley, vice president for Government Affairs and Business Partnerships

A little more than 46 percent of Arizona voters turned out Nov. 2 to vote on a number of statewide offices and the 10 ballot propositions. Arizona voters have determined the fate of 10 ballot propositions and we will now wait and see the impact of those votes on Arizona’s state budget decisions and policies.

Three propositions have clearly passed, four have clearly failed and there are three with a difference of less than 2 percent between passage and failure and will likely be challenged over the next month.

Proposition 301, which would have transferred funds designated for land conservation into the state general fund, and Prop 302, which would have swept funds collected from a voter-approved tax on tobacco to fund early childhood education programs into the state general fund, were defeated Nov. 2.

The defeat of these two propositions leaves an additional hole in the current FY11 budget of approximately $480 million for a total projected budget deficit this year of $825 million and a FY12 projected deficit of approximately $1.3 billion if no permanent adjustments are made in FY11.

The incoming state Legislature will be forced to address difficult budget decisions through both mid-year budget reductions and further reductions for the FY12 budget.

Prop 107, one of only three propositions that appear to have passed, is the so-called Arizona Civil Rights Amendment, which would ban state affirmative action programs. Northern Arizona University has not previously engaged in hiring preferences or quotas, and the obligation to hire the best qualified candidate for every university position remains unchanged.  Even with the passage of Prop 107, NAU is committed to a diverse campus and will continue to promote diversity in ways that comply with the law.

Voters elected Republican candidates to all statewide offices, including Jan Brewer, governor; Ken Bennett, secretary of state; Tom Horne, attorney general; Doug Ducey, state treasurer; John Huppenthal, superintendent of public instruction (and ex-officio member of the Arizona Board of Regents); and Joe Hart, mine inspector. Previously Democrats had held one of these seats—attorney general.

Republicans picked up three seats in the Arizona Senate making the split now 21 Republicans and nine Democrats. There are 11 returning and 19 new members in the Senate. Of these 19, four previously served in the Legislature, 12 are moving over from the House, and only three are truly new to the Legislature.

Republicans picked up four seats in the Arizona House of Representatives with a new makeup of 40 Republicans and 20 Democrats. Of these, 30 are returning incumbents, eight have previously served in the Legislature, and 22 are truly new. This now provides a veto-proof supermajority in both the Senate and House.

Arizona changed its representation at the federal level as well. Sen. John McCain was re-elected to the U.S. Senate with almost 59 percent of the vote. Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate. The three Arizona seats in the U.S. House held by Republicans remained Republican, and Republicans picked up an additional two seats. Arizona was not the only state electing more Republicans to Congress and the U.S. House of Representatives will have a Republican majority beginning in 2011.