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Capitol buy-back not a bad idea
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Capitol buy-back not a bad idea

  • Ken Lund/Flickr

When I first heard Gov. Jan Brewer's proposal to retire debt on the state's capitol buildings, I thought it was a bad idea. The main reason: early-payoff penalties. There just was no good reason to bear such costs.

It turns out that early payoff penalties are not an issue. The state has to deposit a lump-sum of $106 million into an account that is held by a third party, over which ownership is exercised by the creditors who lent the state the $81 million secured by the capitol buildings. The cash substitutes for the buildings as collateral and we get back the deeds, free and clear.

The $106 million accounts for all the interest and principal we were going to have to spend to pay off the loan over the next 20 years. There is no pre-payment penalty.

Some might say that getting back the capitol buildings' paper is just symbolic nonsense for the sake of the state's centennial. And sentiment is a bad reason to pursue any policy. But this is more than a feel-good idea.

The biggest advantage to this early payoff, though, is that it avoids the temptation to spend temporary money on ongoing programs—the ones that it looks like we can afford now, but that we might not be able to afford later. We did that for several years before the recession, and look where that got us.

It's not safe to assume we've entered into a long-term, steady economic expansion with steady government revenues to accompany it. So, while we have a temporary surplus, let's pay down the state's debt.

Dr. Byron Schlomach is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity.

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