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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008
For a Few Bits More

Article in the AZ Republic on the FY 2009 Budget:

With time running out for lawmakers to submit a state spending plan for fiscal 2009, Gov. Janet Napolitano blasted legislative leaders for stalled progress on the budget.

"This Legislature isn't getting to the work they were sent here to do," Napolitano, a Democrat, said Tuesday during her weekly press briefing.

I've written about the state budget crisis before. The fact that the FY2009 budget year, which starts in a little over 30 days, has the highest deficit on a per capita basis of any state in the country. I have also written that as bad as the FY2008 budget was, the FY2009 is worse not only because it's about 50% larger but because the politically easy tactics of tapping cash reserves and fund sweeps have been largely exhausted in solving that first crisis.

So you don't need to hear that. All you need to know is that this is the worst state fiscal crisis in decades, perhaps ever, and it's going to get solved one way or another in the next few weeks.

What is of interest is the fact of the Governor's press briefing.

The Governor has been using these briefings to accuse the Legislature, specifically the Republican leadership, for not proposing a budget plan. Well first the politics involved. You know, the Governor knows, the Legislature knows, and Willie the Panhandler at 19th Ave & Jefferson knows that the trick is not for the Legislature to submit a plan but to submit a plan she won't veto. In this budget showdown, she has the advantage of being a solitary actor while the Republican leadership must deal with a caucus that is split.

The thing is while we all know that the Republicans are mulling a combination of budget cuts, tapping the remaining cash reserves, and borrowing we have little to no idea what the Governor is proposing. The funny thing is that not only does she has the resources in terms of the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting to craft budget proposals but she says she has sent her numbers to the Legislature the other week.

So here's the question, when the Governor accuses the Republicans of doing nothing on the budget did anyone in the press present at the briefing ask her what she is proposing as a solution to the crisis? Or better yet how does she plan to close the $1.9 billion gap? Not only does she have the leadership role as the executive but presumably she has the numbers. Did any one from the media, the great Fourth Estate, even ask?

We don't know.

So here's a suggestion, in order to promote a more informed citizenry with a more direct access to their elected officials and representatives. When there is a press briefing by any elected official in state government, require that either a transcript or a recording of the complete briefing be made available via the Web. Right now all information is filtered through not only the questions the reporters present at the briefing ask, but what those reporters choose to report as far as the answers. So let's cut the middle man out of one part of that equation, the reporters can continue to ask the questions but we the people get to see all the answers.

The media have been given a privileged place in our society and politics, based in large part on their supposed role as watch dogs on behalf of the people. However who is watching them? At least with this, we'll see if they're asking the right questions.

Come on guys we're almost a decade into the 21st Century. Web the primary information and go do something useful