Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where's The Bill?

Back in the '80s, Wendy's had a popular commercial that showed an old lady who looked inside her big, fluffy bun at the nearly non existent patty and asked, "Where's the BEEF?"

In recent weeks, we have been wondering the same thing about Kirk Adams' claim that "During his three years in the top leadership post...without any accounting gimmicks or debt financing—negotiated and authored the first structurally balanced budget in at least five years."

He certainly wasn't talking about the 2010 budget.  That budget, he admits, used accounting gimmicks and rollovers.  As the newly elected Speaker of the House in 2009, he touted the use of "rollovers" by claiming it was a "relatively low cost way to borrow dollars."


That doesn't sound like a "structurally balanced budget".


In 2011, after the budget was passed and just a few weeks before Adams announced his plans to run for Congress,  Adams went on PBS's Horizon and said this:

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"When state revenues do not match the state expenditures, there's a problem.  So what we've done here is we've re balanced those.  This hasn't been done all at once.  This has been a three year process.  We sort of weaned the state off the first two years, then this third year, we've reached true, structural balance according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee."


Somewhere along the way, "WE" became "ME".


Let's take a closer look at the Whoppers on Adams' campaign website. 


1. He "negotiated  the most structurally balanced budget".


Probably true.  After all, he was the Speaker of the House.  Surely there were negotiations and talks between the legislature and the Governor.


2.  Did he "author" as in ink, compose, or originate the most structurally balanced budget?

In a word, no.


On the surface, it sounds like Adams is serving up a double-double cheeseburger animal style from In-And-Out, but when you take a closer look inside, you realize it's just a bite-size Boca burger patty.  An imitation of the real thing and lacking anything remotely close to pure beef.


The fact is that after pouring over the budget bills in 2011, we were not able to find a single one to back up the claim that Adams authored the first structurally balanced budget in at least five years.



Each year in early January, the Governor submits her budget recommendations to the legislature.  One of the chambers in the legislature will then put together a budget using the Governor's recommendations as a guide. 

 

We found budget bills which were presented in the first session of 2011 and every one of them came from the Senate.  Also, every single one of them were voted on in the House under the original bill numbers that came out of the Senate.  Of those Senate budget bills, Senator Andy Biggs' name appears first.  The first name on the list is always the person who "owns" or originated the bill.  Fellow Prime Sponsors along with Senator Biggs included Senator Pearce, Senator Murphy, Senator S. Pierce and on a couple of specific bills, Senator Klein and Senator Smith.

That might explain why all of the Prime Sponsors on the Senate Budget Bills have chosen to endorse Matt Salmon for Congress.


Here is a list of all of the budget bills presented in 2011:

SB1612 - General Appropriations
SB1613- Capitol outlay
SB1614- State budget procedures
SB1615- Consolidation, state agencies
SB1616- Revenue - budget reconciliation
SB1617- K-12 education - budget reconciliation
SB1618- higher education - budget reconciliation
SB1619- health - budget reconciliation
SB1620- welfare -  budget reconciliation
SB1621- criminal justice - budget reconciliation
SB1622- general government - budget reconciliation
SB1623- regulation - budget reconciliation
SB1624 - environment - budget reconciliation

Perhaps Adams was on the Appropriations Committee where he would have been involved in discussions of the allocation of funds to the numerous government agencies, departments, and organizations?


Nope.


Rules Committee?


Yes.


Adams assigned himself to the Rules Committee starting in January 2009 and it was the only committee he served on until he resigned in April of 2011.  The Rules Committee deals with determining whether or not a bill is "constitutional and proper". The Rules attorney goes over the bill to make sure it appears to be constitutional, checks the wording, and then reports to the committee.  All this committee does is take the report of the Rules attorney and then rubber-stamp the bills. They don't typically consider the merits of the bill or get into any "MEATY" issues. 


What is interesting to note is that on the Appropriations Committee agenda, these bills were "strikers" or "strike everything".  This allowed Senator Biggs to have the bill numbers pulled and assigned to him.  Strikers allow for the deletion of the entire text of the existing bill and substitute new language.  This allowed Senator Biggs and those listed as sponsors, the ability to change, modify and edit the wording of the bills.

Based on the evidence, we have concluded that Adams did NOT author the infamous balanced budget in 2011.  As the leader of the House, he surely participated in some of the budget negotiations with the Governor.  But to take credit by claiming he authored the first structurally balanced budget the Arizona legislature had seen in 5 years is clearly misleading and unbecoming of someone trying to persuade people to trust him when he's 3000 miles away in Washington.  One has to wonder what other bills he might try to take full credit for drafting if he thinks it might serve him well or be politically expedient.  How many people will actually take the time to verify the claims? 

Sadly, not very many.

Those who DID author the first structurally balanced budget know who they are (and now we do as well).  You will notice that they aren't the ones seeking affirmation and praise for making the challenging and difficult decisions in order to put our state back on more solid, fiscal ground. 

That's the sign of a TRUE leader.


Here are statements from Republican Senators after voting for the new balanced budget.

Senator Murphy:

"The fact of the matter is, it IS a balanced solution and it's the only solution that anybody's really brought forward in a form that we can vote on....I'm proud to vote 'yes' for a solution that actually brings structural balance to our budget after a long while."


Senator Allen:

"This is my fourth budget I've voted on and this is the first one that IS balanced.  Where we DID try and only spend the revenues that we thought we would have and none extra because we owe that to the people."


Senator Yarbrough:

"This is my ninth budget and I have voted 'no' on several of them.  I have voted against my own leadership when they felt compelled to abandon principle and capitulate to the then Governor to pass il-advised budgets.  This budget is the closest, by far, to being TRULY balanced, to be without borrowing, and to be without gimmicks."


and finally, Senator Biggs:

"...recognize the point and purpose for what we're doing here today which is to produce a budget that's balanced, without gimmicks, borrowing or rollovers...."


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