We mentioned last week that Republican lawmakers were stretching the truth when they said they had balanced the budget for the first time in years without gimmicks.
We weren't the only ones to take notice. The Arizona Republic, in its AZ Fact Check series, graded House Speaker Kirk Adams' assertion that the budget is balanced without gimmicks, borrowing or rollovers as "mostly false."
The fund swipes and rollovers are hard to ignore, and we reckon that the biggest hole has to be the $510 million that the state hopes to save by reducing insurance coverage for Arizonans below the poverty line.
Last year, lawmakers wanted to knock somewhere around 300,000 people off the program—most of them childless adults who earned between one-third and 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or a whopping $3,600 to $11,000 a year for a household of one.
But now Gov. Jan Brewer has a new plan: Freezing enrollment on the plan for poor people without kids—along with what Brewer calls "higher-earning" parents who earn between 75 and 100 percent of the federal poverty level. That's right: If you're a single mom with two kids who makes between $14,000 and $18,500, your free ride is over!
And Brewer wants to require people to resubmit their paperwork every six months to remain on the program. If you don't fill out your form, you lose your insurance coverage—and thanks to the enrollment freeze, you're not getting it back.
As people don't take care of their government paperwork or move out of state, the health-care rolls will steadily decline. When all's said and done, Brewer's office estimates that the state will save roughly $200 million.
The general heartlessness of this scheme is appalling, and the economic impact—higher private health insurance premiums, the loss of federal matching funds, budget crunches for hospitals, job losses in the health industry—will cause a cascade of misery.
And then there's the question of whether it's legal, since the voters back in 2000 established the current eligibility standards—namely, that everyone below the federal poverty line is covered by the state.
Lawmakers think they have found a way around this legal wrinkle by claiming that the initiative said the state would use "available funds" to pay for the program once tobacco dollars were exhausted. Republican legislators and Brewer are maintaining that there aren't any available funds, because the budget is so tight.
But Tim Hogan, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, calls that legal position "insane."
"I don't know how they can make that argument with a straight face," says Hogan, who is prepared to file suit as soon as he can find a plaintiff who is refused insurance coverage by the state. "Those people are guaranteed coverage under (2000's) Proposition 204."
Hogan is also skeptical that the state will be able to persuade the Obama administration to approve the plan to save the rest of that $510 million by charging a variety of co-pays for people on AHCCCS and assessing fees on smokers and fat diabetics.
"That's pie-in-the-sky stuff," Hogan says. "Good luck with that."
NOT AT ALL FACTUAL
U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl got national exposure during last week's battle over the federal budget when he took to the Senate floor to denounce Planned Parenthood.
As you may recall, anti-abortion Republicans were trying to kill all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, even though the organization separates its abortion services from its other services so that tax dollars are not supporting the termination of any pregnancies.
Kyl blurted out this whopper: "Everybody goes to clinics, to doctors, to hospitals, so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don't have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does."
Actually, Sen. Kyl, you also go to Planned Parenthood for birth control, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings and other services that often benefit the poor and the disadvantaged.
There are a lot of ways to measure what kind of services that Planned Parenthood provides, but you'd have to get pretty creative to justify Kyl's suggestion that 90 percent of the services are abortion-related.
Kyl didn't even try. Within hours, his office released a statement that "his remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions."
Is there some way we can know in advance which statements by Kyl are "intended to be factual" and which ones are made-up bullshit?
Don Baltes, the Utah man who is leading the charge to recall Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, has until May 24 to gather more than 90,000 signatures.
We don't think he's likely to cross the threshold—and we're not alone.
Sam Stone, spokesman for the Pima County Republican Party, is skeptical that the effort will be successful.
Stone says that Pima County Republicans want to see Dupnik replaced by a GOP candidate—but the party, which is now led by chairman Brian Miller, is concentrating on the 2012 election rather than helping Baltes, who hosts an Internet radio show and heads up an organization called Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, LLC.
"I don't know if he has a profit motive or is just looking for publicity for his radio show, but the recall is a stunt and nothing more," Stone says.
Meanwhile, Democrats are honoring Dupnik this weekend. He'll be the guest of honor at a dinner on Saturday, April 16, at the Hotel Tucson City Center, 475 N. Granada Ave. The keynote speaker will be former Colorado congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, and special guests will include Congressman Raúl Grijalva, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall and former Attorney General Terry Goddard. For details on tickets, call 326-3716.
ON THE MOVE
Bill Buckmaster, who left his anchor gig with Arizona Illustrated last year after more than two decades to launch his own radio show, is again on the move.
The Buckmaster Show, which airs from 9 to 10 a.m. on KJLL AM 1330, will be heard from noon to 1 p.m. on KVOI AM 1030 beginning in June. He'll also syndicate the show on KAPR in Douglas and KJAA in Globe.
"I am really excited about this move," Buckmaster says. "It expands the reach of the show from one end of Southern Arizona to the other, and one of my goals was to get the program into syndication."
Buckmaster will remain on KJLL through the end of April and will take May off to retool the show. The format will mostly remain the same, with your Skinny scribe continuing to join a roundtable of local journalists on Fridays.
Buckmaster thanked KJLL general manager, talk-show host and friend of The Skinny John C. Scott for helping him launch the show.
"John C. Scott is the dean of local talk shows and a living legend in Tucson," Buckmaster said. "He was the reason I decided to go with KJLL in the first place, and I'll always been indebted to him for making the transition from TV news to radio as smooth as it has been."
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