I am a conservative. I believe in limited government, private property rights, the rule of law, traditional values, minimal regulations and low taxes that provide essential services.
Due to the fundamentally flawed design of Arizona’s Public Safety Pension Retirement System (PSPRS) created in 1968, the state constitutional protection from any corrections to those flaws provided to the system in 1998 ,the additional benefits added by our legislature since and the incompetent performance of the team charged with investing the funds of the system we, the citizens of Prescott find ourselves in the very difficult position we are today. Do we tax ourselves and throw hard earned tax dollars at a system that will inevitably collapse or do we decide to stop feeding the cancer that is eating away at the city services we’ve come to rely on to maintain the wonderful quality of life we enjoy in this most special of cities? This is the question you’ve been told is what proposition 443 will decide but it really is NOT. We’ve heard from several members of the current city council in newspaper articles, statements made in city council meetings, admissions in public forums that the REAL goal is to provide more revenue to the city’s general fund in order provide “flexibility”, “restore” and “expand” city services, increase city staff salaries through “market compensation” analysis and more.
If any of you have watched public tax policies over the years sold to the voters by convincing us that such taxes are essential to solve a critical problem only to watch those tax dollars used for other purposes then you have probably become as cynical as I have especially when I’m asked to “trust” the very politicians who did the selling and then changed the uses for some other more important reason. This is simply bad tax policy that I cannot and will not support. If the proponents of Yes on 443 want to tax us for these real reasons then be honest about it and let the voters decide whether to support such claims. To use such deceptive tactics is an insult to the voters.
In addition to this “bait and switch” campaign I also cannot support 443 due to the poor timing of this tax. Structural reform of PSPRS must begin at the state legislature. There is nothing that the city of Prescott can do to change any aspect of PSPRS. The claim has been made by 443 proponents that the legislature will do nothing to PSPRS. We have two state representatives Noel Campbell and David Stringer who have been given the authority by the Speaker of the House J.D. Mensard to form an Ad Hoc committee to educate cities throughout the state on the scope and magnitude of this crisis in order to generate the necessary pressure for the legislature to engage in reform at the next session. Noel Campbell has shown time and again that he san take on serious issues and get things done in Phoenix (ie. Prop 124 and the new law giving Prescott the permission to regulation Sober Living Rehab homes). Let’s give our representatives the time to do the job we elected them to do.
So what can be done if 443 fails? We have excessive financial reserves in our city’s general fund that are far above what is considered prudent. These reserves alone can be accessed to manage the growing PSPRS bill for many years to come. The streamlining of city staffing and responsibilities begun by City Manager Michal Lamarr should continue to provide savings. Surplus properties that the city owns should be sold to provide additional financial resources. Substantial savings can also be generated if the delivery model for police and fire services is legitimately examined and modernized. Privatizing of some city services can also yield additional savings if genuinely pursued. These are the solutions that have not been implemented since institutions like people avoid change unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Rushing to tax is simply easier.