Thursday, September 23, 2021 4:12 am

Lawmakers Ask How Long the Boom Will Last

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price/City of Maricopa

By Sophie Quinton|Stateline  

When legislative sessions ended last year, governors and state lawmakers were braced for a prolonged recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’d frozen hiring for government jobs and cut funding for services such as education, expecting tax revenue to plummet along with the economy. 

But the recession lasted just two months. State tax collections came in so much higher than expected last fiscal year—and are expected to grow so much this year—that lawmakers were able this session to restore past cuts, save money for future emergencies and spend more on everything from housing to income tax reductions. 

The bonanza doesn’t stop there. States are receiving more than $195 billion in additional money from the American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 aid package signed by President Joe Biden in March. 

Now, rather than fretting about a downturn, state budget writers are wondering how long the boom can last. Some lawmakers worry new spending and tax cuts this year went too far, with criticism falling along familiar partisan lines. 

In Idaho, for instance, Democrats say the state may not be able to afford income tax cuts approved this year by the Republican-controlled legislature. “This perception that we’re so flush and have these record surpluses has driven some revenue reductions that I think can actually cause long-term problems,” said state Rep. Ilana Rubel, the assistant minority leader.  

In California, Republicans say the state will struggle to pay for new programs enacted by the Democratic-controlled legislature, once federal relief dollars dry up. “The budget is not sustainable,” said Assembly Member Vince Fong, vice-chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. 

Forty-eight states have enacted a budget so far this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization that advises state legislators. 

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Coming out of pandemic, mayor says Maricopa ready for anything

By Joey Chenowith | PinalCentral 

Maricopa is a city of dreams and ambitions. That’s how it started, of course, with a group of developers staring at miles and miles of farmland and dreaming of a time when they would all be filled with homes and businesses. And those dreams have turned into reality, with a city bursting at the seams with new residents and the promise for more to come. 

Few dreams come true without their challenges, and Maricopa’s growth has been far from linear. That was true when the Great Recession crippled the local real estate market, and it was true as cultural events had to be shut down due to COVID-19. But while residents were stuck at home and plans were put on hold, Mayor Christian Price says the city’s staff had their eyes firmly focused on the future and how to make sure Maricopa comes out of the pandemic stronger than ever. 

 “We’ve all had our challenges. We’ve had areas that declined due to the pandemic, like Highway User Revenue Funds. With people not traveling as much, the HURF money went down,” Price said. “But like most challenges in life, if you get creative you can find ways to make things truly wonderful and profitable. So without minimizing the heartache people went through with losing their jobs, the fact of the matter is you had many other industries who made out like bandits.” 

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