Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Despite budget shortfall, Senate plans centennial bash

[Source: Howard Fischer, Tribune] -- Arizona's dire financial picture is not dulling plans by lawmakers to throw a party for the state's 100th birthday. The state Senate refused Thursday to take back $2.5 million it had set aside last year for a centennial celebration. In fact, lawmakers even voted to ease the restrictions they had originally put on the funds. Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said his colleagues are ignoring fiscal reality. "We're in a budget crisis," he said, with the official deficit this year at $1.2 billion and estimates suggesting it could be $200 million more than that. And the financial picture looks even worse next year with a potential $2 billion gap between revenue and expenses.

"We don't have money to spend on parties most Arizonans will not be able to attend," Gould said. Lawmakers set aside $2.5 million two years ago for the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission to come up with plans for celebrating 100 years since the state was admitted to the union on Feb. 14, 1912. Supporters of the plan promised to raise $5 million in matching funds. That, however, has not happened. So SB1337 removes the requirement for the match. Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, said this isn't as though the Legislature is taking the money from some other program. She said the cash already has been set aside. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]