Before he is sworn in for his first days as an Arizona senator, Republican Sen.-elect Al Melvin has been named vice chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
“They have entrusted me with this major responsibility,” said Melvin, the SaddleBrooke Republican who defeated Democrat Cheryl Cage in the District 26 election in November.
All budgetary matters move through a legislature’s appropriations committee. Appropriations was Melvin’s “first preference, knowing full well these are difficult budgetary times, and it’s going to take a lot more work than most of the committees,” he said Wednesday.
Appropriations is the “hardest-working, and the largest” of the committees. The Senate Appropriations Committee has 11 members, seven Republicans and four Democrats.
The Senate panel is chaired by another newly elected senator, Russell Pearce from District 18.
“The chairman told me he wanted someone he could trust, and who he thought was like-minded, and would work hard with him,” said Melvin. “He asked for me specifically by name, and the new president (Sen. Bob Burns) agreed.
“Lower taxes, better education, more efficient government is good for everybody, and this appointment is recognition by the party’s leadership” of Melvin’s positions and commitment, he believes.
Party leaders were “happy to see a good, solid conservative get elected from down here.”
Melvin has been attending preliminary, preparatory meetings. Legislators are sworn in Jan. 12.
“I will have been at work for quite a while before I’m actually sworn in,” he said.
The state’s budget deficit is “$1.2 million right now for this fiscal year. It could grow to $1.5 billion,” Melvin said.
He had a realization about difficult financial times in December, when Melvin went to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a gathering of newly elected conservative legislators from all 50 states in Washington, D.C.
“I learned, and repeated it today at a TREO breakfast, that … contrary to popular thought, difficult economic times are the best of times to get things fixed,” Melvin said.
“When everyone is on their knees, so to speak, from the adverse economic situation, you can get more accomplished in a fundamental way than you can if you’re flush with revenue and cash.”
In flush times, “nobody’s going to compromise, nobody’s going to do anything,” he continued. “Under these circumstances, you can effect fundamental change. I’m looking forward to it. We can make historic decisions that will benefit the state.”
Melvin is “really tickled” to have a “clear conservative Republican majority in the House and the Senate, and now with Jan Brewer as our next governor. But I also realize that we’ve got two years to deliver here. The onus is on us, so to speak, to get it done. I feel we can.”
He hopes Brewer sees the “historic significance” of the moment, and moves oversight of federal funds that constitute a large percentage of Arizona’s budget from the executive branch to the legislative branch.
Melvin has also been seated on the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, and the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. “I have a full plate,” he said.
Williams on Appropriations; he, Young Wright both on House Education panel
Republican Rep. Vic Williams has been appointed to serve on the Appropriations Committee of the Arizona House of Representatives.
In November, Williams was elected to his first term in office from District 26, which includes much of the Northwest.
Williams also sits on the Education Committee and the Public Employees, Retirement and Entitlement Reform Committee, as well as the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
District 26 Democratic Rep. Nancy Young Wright has been assigned to the Education and Water and Energy Committees.
District 25 Representatives Republican David Stevens and Democrat Patricia Fleming have been chosen for the Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.