Council backs Brewer's proposal

Legislature’s plan would cripple cities, mayor says

KINGMAN - The Kingman City Council has unanimously approved a resolution in support of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's budget proposal for the 2009-2010 fiscal year over an alternate proposal passed by both branches of the Republican-led Legislature.

The Council vote came Monday evening, only a day before Brewer, a Republican herself, filed a lawsuit against the Legislature for failing to send her the budget it passed earlier this month. GOP leaders in the Legislature have expressed a desire to negotiate a compromise with the governor rather than risk her likely veto. The state has until July 1 to determine how it will plug a budget shortfall estimated to be between $3 and $4 billion.

Kingman is one of a number of cities statewide that has condemned the Legislature's proposal, primarily for its attacks on state-shared revenue funds and impact fees. Specifically, the proposal calls for cutting approximately $42 million in cities' share of the state vehicle licensing tax, which would force Kingman to revisit its already-balanced budget and find an extra $300,000 to cut.

The Legislature's proposal also calls for a three-year statewide moratorium on the collection of impact fees, a move that could potentially devastate Kingman, since the city has already agreed to use $12.5 million in current and future impact fee receipts to pay for the construction of the new Hilltop Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Brewer's plan, by comparison, would preserve impact fees and VLT funds, using a one-point increase in the state's 5.6 percent sales tax to fill the budget hole instead. The tax increase as proposed would last for only three years and would require a voter referendum to pass.

Reading the resolution into the minutes Monday evening, Kingman Mayor John Salem acknowledged the city would not see any additional revenues from Brewer's sales tax increase. Nevertheless, he said, it remained preferable to the alternative, which he described as "shift(ing) the responsibility for a balanced state budget onto cities and towns," resulting in further budget shortfalls for entities that have already had to do their due diligence in light of the global recession.

"Since the beginning of the economic downturn nearly two years ago, cities and towns across the state have reacted responsibly to decreased revenues by reducing or eliminating programs, improving efficiency, reducing operating hours and furloughing or laying off employees," Salem said.

Salem went on to praise Brewer's plan as "a fiscally responsible, sustainable and realistic plan that does not do significant harm to the local governments in our state."

Following Salem's reading of the resolution, Councilman Ray Lyons voiced his discontent with the situation, arguing that neither the governor's tax increase nor the Legislature's raid on funds would prove beneficial to cities and towns in the long run.

"They need to go back to the drawing board," Lyons said. "They need to make the cuts necessary to balance their budget without raising taxes and without impacting cities."

Vice Mayor Janet Watson, however, argued that the governor's proposal gave much greater consideration to city budgets than the Legislature's. Regardless of whose name or political party was on the final budget, she said, Brewer's plan was the best currently available and the one Council should support.

"I don't think it's the person, I don't think it's the party, I think it's the program," Watson said. "It's absolutely the program, and this is the best that's on the table right now for cities and towns and counties."

Salem echoed this sentiment, frustrated that the state government couldn't figure out how to do what so many cities already have done. Watson went on to say she hoped Kingman would forward its resolution to the Tri-city Council in order to present Brewer with a single, unified voice of support from all of Mohave County.

"If everyone is in agreement, (we can) forward it on so that she knows she has support from this part of the state, and we appreciate the fact that she's trying to protect us as much as she can," Watson said.

Councilwoman Robin Gordon made a motion to approve the resolution, with Councilwoman Carole Young seconding. The final vote was 7-0 in support.