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Arizona budget crisis fueled by a billion dollars in wasted tax money

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Arizona budget crisis fueled by a billion dollars in wasted tax money

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 143 examples of lavish and fraudulent government spending identified in the 2011 Arizona Piglet Book released recently 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.

Some cases highlighted in the Piglet Book 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 Arizona governments. 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 been spending rapidly on 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. All of these luxury items could be provided with private dollars.

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.

Le Templar is communications director for the Goldwater Institute.

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