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[Washington Babylon]

Arizona from the Right: A conversation with Senator Ron Gould

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Senator Ron Gould bills himself as “the most conservative” politician in the Arizona state legislature, and he has the flat-top haircut to prove it; next to Gould, Sergeant Joe Friday looks like a Yippie. I met Gould earlier this year during a reporting trip to Arizona, for a piece that appears in the July issue of the magazine (not yet available online) on the state’s economic crisis and general political insanity.

As I noted in another item posted today, Arizona is essentially bankrupt. In May, voters approved a ballot measure that temporarily raised the state sales tax, which averted an immediate budget collapse.

I don’t necessarily share Gould’s views on the state’s budget crisis, but I enjoyed his candor and admired his consistency. Below are excerpts from our conversation.

Haven’t taxes been cut too much in Arizona?

I don’t buy the argument that tax cuts created the problem. The problem is overspending. The state collects a sales tax on new houses and commercial construction, and when housing values were going up everyone was borrowing against their house to get a pool, a new SUV and a big screen TV. The high tide came in 2007 but we continued to spend like we were going up the peak.

We need to cut back to 2004 levels of spending. if the program didn’t exist in 2004, there should be no funding for it now. The cuts will be harsh but I don’t see a choice. I told constituents when I ran for office I wouldn’t raise taxes and I intend to honor that pledge.

What do you think of what the legislature has done so far to address the crisis?

Most of what we have done is smoke and mirrors. We’ve played accounting games, securitized state buildings and lottery revenues. It’s like saying, “Daddy, can I have a twenty year advance on my allowance?”

Would the sales tax hike solve the problems? [note: Interview took place before the May vote.]

It won’t solve the problem, it will just postpone the inevitable.

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