by Jim Nintzel
The latest bulletin from the state Rep. Steve Farley:
The special session is over, and the Republican budget is set. Because of that, Arizona's future is now at great risk.
Not a single person signed up in support of any of these budget bills during their only public hearing in front of the Appropriations Committee. Agency heads were not allowed to testify or provide input. This budget has no constituency, only ideology.
The fiscal crisis is only Republicans' excuse to do what they feel they were elected to do: destroy government. This is the Grover Norquist budget, designed to—in the words of that influential Republican anarchist from DC who controls the No New Taxes pledge signed by a majority of AZ Republican legislators—shrink government to the size where it can be dragged to a bathtub and drowned.
Please refer to last week's email to review the details of the carnage, but here are a few lowlights once more:
—> KidsCare is entirely eliminated, kicking more than 42,000 kids off their health care. That makes Arizona the first
state in the nation to permanently repeal our children's healthcare program. If only we could be first in something positive...
—> All-Day Kindergarten is also eliminated, forcing struggling young families to quite their jobs, pay for childcare, or pay tuition at public schools so their kids get a better start on their education.
—> Public schools will be cut $832 million between now and June 2011 even if Jan Brewer's May 18 sales tax passes. That cut will be $1.2 billion if the tax fails. Class sizes will soar to between 40 and 55 kids per teacher.
—> Voters will be asked to repeal First Things First, and to shift the funds generated by the cigarette tax from early childhood programs to the General Fund. We will also be asked to raid the Growing Smarter funds for the same legislature-controlled purpose. I do not believe that voters will choose to trust the Legislature instead of themselves to spend funds wisely.
— Programs to fund transit (with a special hit to rural transit), GED education, State Parks, Tourism, the Arts, Gifted Education, Adult Education, Adult Literacy, and many more services vital to our future as a community and an economy were eliminated completely.
—> 340,000 people will be kicked off of healthcare due to Republican de-funding of Proposition 204, the voter-approved initiative that requires the state to fund AHCCCS healthcare for all those below the poverty line. This means that if you have a family of four, and your household income exceeds $7300 a year, you will no longer be eligible for healthcare.
Let me elaborate a bit on the implications of this last point.
First off, the move is illegal, since it violates the Voter Protection Act. Lawsuits to overturn this action are in the works, and will likely succeed, but Republicans are banking that will happen after the November election.
Second, the move could well cost us more than $2.8 billion in federal matching funds and stimulus money, making our fiscal situation worse.
Third, having all those folks with no healthcare would mean that they would get sicker, show up at emergency rooms en masse, and hospitals would be forced to provide more expensive care without being reimbursed. That will likely cause emergency rooms, trauma centers, and even entire hospitals to close, eliminating around 42,000 jobs, according to a study by the ASU's Carey Business School. We all will suffer, regardless of household income.
Another interesting note is that the AHCCCS administrators are saying that they plan to use upcoming stimulus funds to keep all 340,000 people covered through July 1, 2011.
If you assume as they do that this legislation does not violate the stimulus eligibility requirements, that means that voters in November can save our hospitals, our emergency rooms, our trauma centers, the healthcare for these people, and save thousands of Arizona lives by voting for a Democratic majority and a Democratic governor.
Seriously—we need to get the word out to voters, particularly in swing districts like Oro Valley, Green Valley, the Foothills, Marana, and many other key locations around the state. Your vote for Democrats in November will roll back this bloodbath budget.
It does not have to be this way. Democrats have always had better ideas to actually balance this budget without raising your taxes. We have been aggressively excluded from having any part in this budget process because our ideas will make government run better, and the Republican majority don't want government to run at all.
There are $10 billion annual dollars worth of options in the sales tax code alone. $10 billion in corporate tax giveaways—many of them nearly nonsensical—were placed in our statutes by clever lobbyists on behalf of their clients, not for you and me.
For instance, did you know that 4-inch pipes are exempt from sales tax? Not 3-inch pipes. Not 2-inch pipes. Just 4-inch pipes.
If we got rid of that one exemption, we would be able to take that money and put 21,000 kids back on healthcare.
Here's another example: When you buy a big-screen TV, and you decide to take the store up on their offer to buy an extended warranty, you pay tax on the TV but not on the warranty.
If we got rid of that one exemption, we would be able to put all 42,000 kids back on healthcare.
Spa services, country-club memberships, satellite TV, and so many more things are exempt. The list goes on and on, adding up to more than $10 billion in lost revenues. We could easily find two or three billion in unimportant exemptions that could instead be invested in education, healthcare, jobs, public safety, transportation, and so many other things that we desperately need right now.
Not one of these exemptions were repealed in the enacted Republican budget. All we got was more slashing and burning.
But if these cuts leave you down and out, Republicans also want you to have options — payday loans!
Yes, the predatory lending industry are dumping tens of millions of dollars into lobbying firms all over the state in a last effort to sway legislators to allow them to stay alive past June 30. And Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) is helping them by striking their Payday Lenders Resurrection Bill onto another bill in the Senate.
Perhaps Senator Pearce thinks you will forget that you voted overwhelmingly in November 2008 to put these predators out of business for good.
Democrats are and will remain unified against this outrageous and craven attempt to override voter prerogative. It's time to serve the people, not the rich special interests who prey on the people.
Again, it doesn't have to be this way. All Arizonans must understand — 44 years of Republicans in power is way too long, and we are on the wrong track. Your vote for Democrats in November will finally put us back on the right track and help Arizona rise again.