Arizona Budget Crisis Fueled by a Billion Dollars in Wasted Tax Money

Posted on March 09, 2011 | Type: Press Release
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PHOENIX – Santa Cruz County lost track of $241,000 in equipment. Safford spent $15,000 to install outdoor stereo speakers on a downtown street. Avondale used $7 million to connect water and sewer pipelines to a professional auto racing track.

These are just a handful of the 142 examples of lavish and fraudulent government spending identified in the 2011 Arizona Piglet Book released today by the Goldwater Institute and Citizens Against Government Waste. The Piglet Book outlines a total of $1.2 billion in unnecessary spending just in Arizona that has been paid by state and local taxpayers.

“Arizonans struggle every day in our difficult economy to keep their families fed and clothed,” said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. “Fraud, luxuries and projects that offer few lasting benefits are disgraceful and an abuse of the public trust.”

The Goldwater Institute and Citizens Against Government Waste previously released a comprehensive list of government waste in 2002. The 2011 Piglet Book highlights new examples of wasteful spending from the past three years gathered from government budget books, audit reports, and independent news accounts.

Some cases represent direct fraud by government employees caught by outside auditors, such as the missing 8,700 gallons of diesel fuel from the Creighton Elementary School District in Phoenix.

But many other items illustrate the poor judgment and misdirected priorities of governments, Ms. Olsen said. Despite billion-dollar budget shortfalls, the state of Arizona continues to set aside $665,000 to support an arts commission that issues grants to risqué theater productions featuring pornography and gore. Another $1.8 million will be used to keep county fairs afloat and to promote agriculture through the Department of Racing.

At the local level, the city of Tucson subsidizes Reid Zoo with more than a million dollars every year. Bullhead City has budgeted to expand parks and recreation with a $13 million community center and swimming pool. Not to be outdone, Yuma just opened an $8.8 million aquatic center, and will spend more than $1 million just to operate it and three other city pools this year. These luxury items could be provided with private dollars, the report contends.

“The 2011 Arizona Piglet just scratches the surface on the amount of taxpayer dollars wasted by Arizona’s state and local governments,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  “In a state facing a $1 billion budget shortfall this year, where the Obama administration’s new Medicaid mandates are expected to cost $11.6 billion through 2020, it is imperative that all the frivolous spending highlighted by the Arizona Piglet be cut immediately.”

To stop the widespread misuse of tax dollars, the Goldwater Institute and Citizens Against Government Waste recommend state and local governments create independent commissions made up of business leaders and nonprofit organizations to look through every nook and cranny of the budget books. The 2011 Piglet Book also recommends Arizona improve its constitutional spending limit so government spending, adjusted for inflation, cannot grow faster than the population.

Click here to read the 2011 Arizona Piglet Book. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog that develops innovative, principled solutions to issues facing the states and whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters nationwide. Citizens Against Government Waste is a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in government.

Editor’s Note: This news release has been revised to reflect an update to the 2011 Piglet Book based on additional information. Four projects were removed from the book because these projects were funded by private grants and federal tax dollars, and no state, regional or local tax dollars were identified as a source of funding. An additional project was removed because it reflected budget figures representing shortfalls in grant revenues, while the Piglet Book focuses on unneccessary and excessive spending. A description of Yuma’s $1.1 million in operational funding for aquatics was clarified to explain that includes four city pools.

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