by Jim Nintzel
Following the vote for more border funding, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to provide $26 billion to state governments to fund education and health-care programs.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords voted in favor of the legislation, which will send roughly $563 million to Arizona to help the state balance its budget. State lawmakers were counting on the money to ensure that it would not have to cut more than than 300,000 people from the state's AHCCCS rolls.
Republicans Jonathan Paton and Jesse Kelly, who are squaring off in the GOP primary that will decide who faces Giffords in November, have not replied to a request for comment on the legislation.
Read more about the legislation here.
The statement from Giffords' office:
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords today voted with the majority as the House approved legislation that will bring nearly $563 million to Arizona to keep teachers on the job and provide critical financial assistance to the cash-strapped state.
“This bill will prevent the layoff of teachers and help Arizona as it continues to struggle with consequences of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Giffords. “With some children in Southeastern Arizona already starting school and others set to begin classes over the next 10 days, it was crucial that the House move quickly to save essential teachers’ jobs.”
The House today approved the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act by a 247-to-161 vote. The Senate passed the measure last week and it now goes to the president for his signature.
The legislation will save or create an estimated 319,000 jobs, including 161,000 teacher jobs. In doing so, Giffords noted, the bill will reduce the deficit by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to send American jobs overseas.
The bill provides $10 billion for local school districts to prevent imminent layoffs. Some $211.8 million of that is designated for Arizona, where it will save the jobs of an estimated 3,300 teachers.
“What is at stake here is Arizona’s future,” said Giffords. “Keeping teachers in the classroom today means a more promising tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.”
Dan Meyer of Tucson, who has been an educator for 30 years, praised the legislation and Giffords’ support for it.
“I’ve just been talking to teachers who have 30 to 40 kids in their classrooms,” said Meyer, a counselor at Flowing Wells Junior High School. “Arizona already is 49th in per-pupil spending for education. Given the reluctance the state has to raise revenue, it is crucial that the federal money supplement state funds for education.”
Included in the legislation are provisions to ensure that states use the money to preserve jobs in elementary and secondary education. Money cannot be used for equipment, utilities, renovation or transportation. States also are prohibited from using the money to build up “rainy day funds” or pay off debt.
“In these tough economic times, the last thing we want to do is rob our children and grandchildren of the education they deserve,” said Giffords. “This funding will allow states to keep the teachers that schools desperately need.”
The legislation also provides $16.1 billion in Medicaid assistance to states — including $351 million to Arizona. The funds will help reduce budget shortfalls and allow states to keep many other employees on the job, including state police officers, prison workers and those who oversee allegations of child abuse and neglect.
According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the Medicaid funds will save and create 158,000 jobs. More than half these jobs will be in the private sector, including workers who contract for or supply services to state and local governments.
The cost of the legislation is more than paid for. In fact, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office, the legislation will reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over 10 years.
The bill will cost $26.1 billion, but it includes $27.5 billion in offsets, including $17.7 billion in spending cuts and $9.8 billion in increased revenue by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship American jobs overseas.
The bill meets conditions of the pay-as-you-go law, commonly known as PAYGO. Giffords was a co-sponsor of PAYGO legislation in the House and has been a member of the fiscally responsible Blue Dog Coalition since she joined the House of Representatives in 2007.