Conservative Legislators See Red Over State Budget, Republican "Traitors"

By Dennis Durband, Editor
June 16, 2004

The war between conservative and liberal Republicans in Arizona continues to heat up - and it is peaking now that the 2004 legislative session is over.
Conservative Arizona legislators are boiling mad over the betrayal last month by liberal Republicans in a defection that allowed Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to raise the state budget by more than a billion dollars. Four conservative legislators appearing in public last week blasted the Republican "traitors" who worked with Democrats to pass the governor's preferred budget. At least three of the conservatives are planning to swell the ranks of platform-minded Republicans in the legislature, by enlisting statewide support for conservative candidates in this year's primary elections.

Instead of cutting spending to solve revenue shortages in recent years, the liberals instead increased spending while using smoke and mirror tactics to slide in under the wire of Arizona's constitutionally-mandated balanced budgets. The budget passed last month by a liberal cabal of Republicans and Democrats fails to repay loans. Roll-overs and other accounting tricks in recent years have also failed to cover the fact that the budget is a patchwork quilt that barely covers its responsibilities. The budget has now risen to more than $7 billion.

"This year was very frustrating for me as a conservative," said Sen. Thayer Verschoor (R-D22). "This was a sorry excuse for a budget. It increased by a billion dollars. These are liberal Republicans and they are traitors to Republican principle. It is absolutely the governor's budget. She orchestrated it with the liberals. I could not believe the budget we passed out of the Senate; it stunk to high heaven. I am very disappointed with leadership. It wasn't a compromise but a sorry excuse. This may lead to tax increases."

State Rep. Andy Biggs (R-22), said the budget was everything the governor wanted and indicated that District 22 conservatives are willing to help conservative candidates in other districts. "Fifteen Republicans sided with the Democrats to pass out the bill," Rep. Biggs said. "The California-zation of Arizona is on. A legislator from Mohave County helped the liberals, but we have a candidate from Mohave County running against him. Help us as we go around the state and help candidates who understand what the Republican Party platform is and get them elected. "The budget cross-over traitors betrayed us," Biggs continued. "They gave us all their demands. They were unwilling to compromise. They want to get control of the House and they will kowtow to the governor. We must stand up to this governor. This wasn't about the budget, but about power for next time when we elect a speaker in the fall. We are not willing to allow them to gain power. We are going to have to go out of our district to help platform conservatives."

House majority leader Eddie Farnsworth (R-D22) echoed the sentiments of his colleagues. "Make no mistake: the governor controls the legislature at this point, until the next election," Rep. Farnsworth said. "They gave her the keys to the legislature. We have to get people in the House and Senate that really understand what the Republican platform is. We need to find people who have filed for the legislature and help them. These two guys (Biggs and Verschoor) are absolutely fantastic and they do understand the role of government. Representative Bill Konopnicki (R-D5) helped orchestrate the betrayal. Sylvia Allen is running (for the House) up there, and she is an exceptional candidate. I would rather have a smaller, tighter caucus than have more RINOs in it."

State Rep. Russell Pearce (R-D18), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, took off on the budget Saturday at the Arizona Republican Assembly state convention in Phoenix.

"The greatest evil is always done by the finest people for the best of reasons," Rep. Pearce said. "Folks, you can't sustain this much government. We tried to put out a budget reflecting our revenues. Eventually, this budget is going to be a train wreck. We have 39 Republican representatives, and you'd think we could put out a Republican budget that recognizes fiscal responsibility and honors the state Constitution. We have a structural deficit difference between revenue and expenditures; this year it was $700 million."

Pearce said the legislature refused to repay a loan with this budget, which is not really balanced. "We spent $700 million more than our revenue. We spent three and a half months working on this budget, working with four different groups. The liberals defied every principle of the Republican Party. We voted to stick it out as a group. We had commitments, but this was betrayed by dishonest people. They worked behind the scenes with the governor. The newspaper gave them accolades for all the things they did with your money, which they couldn't afford to do.

"The day before the vote, we thought we had a deal, plus some really good reforms," Rep. Pearce continued. "If you can't get reform in bad times, you will never get reforms. Every single reform, without exception, they took out. They refused to negotiate with us. At least their votes are reflected on paper. We have overburdened the next generation by writing checks your children and grandchildren won't be able to cash. It's a $300 million tax bill when fully implemented."

New programs, such as all-day kindergarten, will create new deficits, predicted Rep. Pearce, who began working on this budget last summer with Sen. Bob Burns (R-D9). "We met with 23 economists, and we took a cautious approach," Rep. Pearce said. "The worst thing you can do is spend money you don't have. We just keep heading down this road. Our work was thrown away. They betrayed taxpayers and leadership. They ignored every responsible commitment and oath they took. It's our job to stick up for the taxpayers."

Among the renegade Republicans were: Jim Carruthers, Deb Gullett, Bill Konopnicki, Steve Huffman, Tom O'Halleran, Marian McClure, Jennifer Burns, Pete Hershberger, Bill Arnold, Carole Hubbs, Clancy Jayne, Lucy Mason, Bill Wagner and Michele Reagan.