by Jim Nintzel
The latest dispatch from Rep. Steve Farley sums up many of the budget proposals that are making their way through the Legislature this week:
Allow me to apologize on behalf of Republican leadership. While last week was officially declared as "Budget Week", they never actually came up with any budget proposals.
So this week is, once again, "Budget Week"!
We actually do have a budget proposal on the table today. The Republicans would again have a lot of apologizing to do, if they were actually sorry for what they are about to do to the state of Arizona.
It's a bloodbath that will last for generations.
This budget was worked out behind closed doors with input from Republican members only, and
even state agencies were not consulted, or allowed to testify — for the first time in memory.
It doesn't even balance the budget — it uses illegal raids and wishful thinking that will be reversed by court rulings. This phony budget will appear to balance the budget long enough to carry Republican legislators through their November elections until it falls apart completely, leaving our state in ruins.
There are actually two budget proposals: One if the voters pass the sales tax May 18, and another if voters decline.
Budget 1: EVEN IF THE TAX PASSES, here's just some of the damage:
—> 417,982 Arizonans will lose their health care (including 47,000 children on KidsCare), as detailed in last week's Farley Report. This will destroy more than 42,000 jobs, lose us more than $2.8 billion in federal matching funds and stimulus money (some of which will need to be refunded), and put our hospitals, trauma centers, and emergency rooms in danger of closing.
—> Many services to the developmentally disabled will be cut or eliminated, including vision care, attendant care, transportation assistance, and dental services.
—> All-day Kindergarten will end, as will adult ed, gifted, family literacy, and GED programs. In all, $832 million will be cut from K-12 education in Fiscal 2011. We are funding our kids at 2004 levels, despite the huge increases in student population. Class sizes will soar past 50 kids. Imagine the dividends this de-funding of our education system will pay 10, 20, 30 years down the line.
—> Universities will have their per-pupil funding cut by 25%, ensuring more massive tuition increases.
—> The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections will be eliminated, and its duties will be transferred to the counties without funding to pay for it. This is part of $124 million in cost shifts to cities and counties, who are also struggling. The Maricopa County Administrator testified in the Appropriations Committee this morning that counties will be forced to raise property taxes on us all or face possible bankruptcy if they are already up against their spending limits.
—> All funding for the high-wage job-creating Science Foundation Arizona will be cut.
—> Lottery funds (Heritage, LTAF) for State Parks, rural transit, and urban transit will be eliminated, causing transit programs and state parks to be shut down.
—> The Arts Endowment, Jobs Training Fund, Housing Fund, and Underground Storage Tank and Emissions Inspection Funds will be completely swept into the General Fund, so there will be no money for arts, housing, jobs training, or emissions & underground storage inspection.
—> The Departments of Environmental Quality and Water Resources will be cut off from the general fund, and will be funded entirely by the industries which it regulates. The funds in which those fees are stored will still be subject to sweeps by the Legislature. This was the way we ended up with no state parks — make the agency self-funding, then swipe their funds. In the same way, we may also end up with no money to keep our air and water clean and plentiful.
—> Voters will be asked in November to eliminate First Things First and redirect those cigarette tax funds from early childhood education programs into the General Fund, and to eliminate Growing Smarter funds for conservation while also sweeping those funds. The budget is silent on what happens if voters refuse to go along with these schemes, leaving another gaping deficit.
—> By April 1, all state employees will be cut by 5% either through pay cuts, layoffs, or furloughs.
Budget 2: IF THE TAX FAILS, there will be more blood, IN ADDITION TO THE ABOVE CUTS. Here is a bit of how it gets even worse:
—> All departments will be cut by another 5%, except:
—> University funding will be cut by another 12%
—> AHCCCS will be cut by another 9%
—> Community colleges will be cut by another 11%
—> Corrections will be cut by another 7%
—> K-12 education will by cut by another 12%
—> The Department of Fire, Building and Life Safety will be eliminated completely
—> The Judiciary Department will be cut by 10%
—> The Department of Health Services will be cut by 8%
Through all this devastation that will set our state back for decades to come, only one new revenue source was proposed apart from the temporary one-cent sales tax: a repeal of the TPT Accounting Tax Credit, which currently pays retailers for filling out their tax forms. Eliminating that tax credit is a Democratic idea, so that is one small ray in the darkness, but it only collects $20 million a year.
We need a whole lot of other revenues to solve our short term crisis and our long-term fiscal instability, and the majority refuses to discuss anything else. How about that list of more than $10 billion in corporate loopholes in the sales tax code?
Even the business community is strongly opposed to most of these Republican proposals, especially the healthcare cuts. It is hard to find anyone who supports them (not a single person signed in during the Appropriations Committee in support of any of the budget bills), so it would appear that the only motivation driving this budget butchery is naked ideology.
To these guys, government is always bad, so we must eliminate government regulations, government healthcare, and government schools. The next step will be eliminating government first-responders, government roads, and government prisons. While allowing anyone anywhere anytime to carry any and all guns, concealed or otherwise.
I would suggest that our Republican legislative leadership do a little light reading this week and pick up a copy of Thomas Hobbes' 1651 classic of political philosophy, Leviathan.
In Hobbesian terms, those who created this budget and control our state's agenda appear to believe that mankind is better off in a "state of nature" in which there is no government and each individual has a natural right to do whatever it takes to preserve his own life.
The problem with this idealized Republican "state of nature" is aptly encapsulated by Hobbes, when he calls that form of life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Which also aptly describes this budget, which is nasty, brutish and short of money.
Speaking of nasty and brutish, I have an update on HB2148, the bill I wrote about a few weeks ago that would give adoption preference to married couples, thus discriminating against single women and men and LGBT couples. Sponsor Warde Nichols has claimed that he is not doing this to attack LGBT people, but Arizona Republic columnist EJ Montini recently revealed an interesting email from 2148 supporter Senator Jack Harper (R-Surprise) to a constituent.
Here is an excerpt from the Montini column which speaks for itself.
Recently, a single heterosexual woman (she pointed this out in her e-mail) sent a note to a group of legislators expressing her opposition to HB 2148.
She believes it is a bad idea to make it more difficult for people like her to adopt, adding that while single individuals often step forward to serve as foster parents, this bill would tell them "they are not good enough to keep (the children) permanently.
In response, she got an e-mail from Sen. Harper that read:
"'I am sorry that the legislation is clumsy, but it accomplishes the goal that we are trying to achieve. It's hard to single out gay and lesbian couple [sic] with proper wording in statute."
44 years in power has a tendency to create arrogance. It's time to vote for a different legislative majority.