Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Draft Republican Budget Impacts to DES

This morning during Democratic Caucus, we had a presentation by staff of exactly how much the draft Senate Republican budget would cause the state to lose in federal funding just from cuts to the Department of Economic Security.

With the proposed $99 million in additional cuts to DES, this amounts to a loss of $499 million in federal funds.

The impact includes the layoff of thousands of employees, a reduction in investigations and elimination of many vital programs.

Some programs that stand to be eliminated include emergency services, coordinated hunger and homeless, domestic violence, JOBS, substance abuse and vocational rehabilitation.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families would be reduced and impact 38,500 families.

Click HERE to see the full document.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dollars in the Classroom Audit Old News

Senator Debbie McCune Davis (D-14)

So apparently, the Republicans want to punish school districts with high administrative costs by cutting $40 million dollars from their funding. What is their guide? Have they failed to notice that they cut $133 million from K-12 education in the ’09 budget fix at the end of January? Do they think those cuts were made without impacting administrative costs? No matter how you look at it or how many questions you ask, you cannot get around the fact that the infamous utility lobby inspired audit is old news.

But, let’s get back to asking important questions. Why do those who are fond of the audit as a bludgeoning tool fail to mention the correlation between poverty and higher administrative costs? One school administrator talked to me after the “dollars in the classroom” auditors had visited their district. The description was reminiscent of a visit from paramilitary forces … “just step aside and remain silent while we declare your mentors, counselors, social workers and nurses administrative flotsam and jetsam that bloat your district budget. Don’t tell me that the social indicators of poverty increase the burden of a school district in providing educational support to a child.”

Then there is the issue of examining all Arizona school districts as if they are equal in size, shape and geography. An audit that compared apples to apples would significantly have more value. Where is the analysis that compares one of large district to another? How do charter schools compare to small school district? What is the average administrative cost of charter schools of like size? Where do grants fit into administrative costs? If a district receives a grant to upgrade the skills of their workforce or meet special needs, does that drive down the percentage of dollars in the classroom? So many questions so little time!

The recently leaked Republican budgets aim their artillery at school districts that purportedly had high administrative costs in 2008. When will they figure out that their target has moved and their weapon has substantial destructive power on a fragile educational system? Let us hope it is not after the fact. I do not think Arizonans will allow Republicans to claim plausible deniability every time they pass a budget bill.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We're Not Alone!

The National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled a list of legislative blogs across the nation. Here is the list if you would like to check out what other states are up to.

http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/legsocnet.htm

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Senate Republicans Release Budget List

Today, Senate Republicans released a list of budget options stating that it is a compilation of ideas from legislators, advocacy groups and the public.

After reviewing the list, Democratic members found two ideas in the 12 pages that were Democratic ideas: the K-12 rollover and the University rollover.

Here are some items directly from the list compiled by Republicans:
  • Cities - take anything we can
  • Shift Parks to cities and counties
  • Move prisons to Mexico
  • Scrap All Day K
  • Uncover K-12 teachers temporarily so districts can hire/fire who they want
  • Suspend mandated bus service to transport students
  • Reduce Medicaid: Cap the number of visits for routine care
  • Privatize Mental Hospital
  • Eliminate Homeland Security
  • Count entire household income for benefits>run MVD/tax reporting/voter reg address against welfare roles to determine household income and catch live-in fathers who are not married to mothers

Click here to see the whole list.


We strongly suggest that you forward your ideas to your legislators and the Governor, especially if you also do not see anything in the list that you believe helps Arizona plan for the future. (Contact information below.) Strangely, in the dozen plus budget hearings Legislative Democrats have held across the state, many of these ideas never came up.

In contrast, here is a list of strategies that the Senate Democrats released last month.
  • Securitization (Lottery or Prisons)
  • Agency Fund Transfers
  • State Equalization Tax
  • DOC Home Arrest
  • University Rollover
  • DES, AHCCCS, RBHA provider payment deferrals
  • TPT Estimated Payment Threshold Change
  • Agencies Fee Increase
  • Private Prison Fee
  • Suspension of Individual Tax Credits
  • Suspension of Corporate Tax Credits
  • Ongoing Savings from FY 2008-2009
  • Federal Stimulus

Contact Information:

If you do not know who your legislator is, you can find them from the Legislature’s website or you can contact the Senate Information Desk for assistance at (602) 926-3559 or Toll Free at 1-800-352-8404.

Legislative Website: http://www.azleg.gov/alisStaticPages/HowToContactMember.asp

An email list of Senators can also be found at: http://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster.asp?Body=S

Governor’s Office: (602) 542-4331 and Toll Free at 1-800-253-0883

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scheduled Budget Hearings

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Legislative Democrats invite members of the public to a series of budget hearings that will be held statewide.

Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees will hear citizens’ concerns of the deep cuts to the state’s budget. Members of the public are invited to attend to share their comments and concerns.

Ahwatukee - Wednesday, March 25, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Ahwatukee Pecos Community Center, Multipurpose Room
17010 S. 48th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85048
ASU West Campus - Monday, March 30, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
University Center Building (UCB), La Sala Room C
13590 N. 47th Avenue, Glendale, AZ 85069
Paid parking available in Visitor Parking Lot 12 - located on University Way North, just West of 47th Avenue

Chinle/Northeast Arizona - Friday, April 3, 4 p.m.
Chinle Wildcat Den (Gymnasium) located at
Chinle High School, Highway 191 and Navajo Route 7

Maryvale/West Phoenix - Monday, April 6, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Maryvale Church of the Nazarene
3201 N. 51st Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85031

Leaders Will Hold First Native American Caucus Meeting Wednesday

Sen. Albert Hale (D-2), tribal leaders and members of the legislature will meet tomorrow in a newly created caucus to address economic issues as they relate to tribal communities in Arizona.

When: Wed., March 25, 9 to 10 a.m.
Where: House of Representatives, Rooms 35 and 38 (basement)

“It is our hope to also assist tribal members to increase their knowledge of the legislative process and to facilitate a discourse with their legislators,” said Sen. Hale. “We must build and continue a dialogue between tribal governments and members of the Arizona Legislature that benefits everyone during these difficult economic times in our state’s history.”

The caucus was formed by Sen. Hale and Rep. Chris Deschene, both of District 2 in Northern Arizona.

Media is welcome.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Teachers Emerge Victorious

Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-23
Assistant Democratic Leader


Today, Legislative Democrats stood up for teachers and said no to a bill that would give cover to Republicans who plan to make additional cuts to education.

"This bill is not an emergency and does nothing to protect teachers," Sen. Rebecca Rios, Assistant Democratic Leader. "The fact is that the only plan Republicans have produced regarding FY 2010 eliminates $900 million from education. This was an opportunity for them to show leadership and stand with Democrats in offering some reassurance that education funding will be preserved at least at current levels and they chose not to do that."

Both SB 1186 and HB 2630 failed to pass with an emergency clause that would have pushed teacher contracts renewal dates into mid-summer when school is out of session.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Democrats Demand Notice for Teachers, Won't Buy R's More Time

Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-23
Assistant Democratic Leader

This week, the Legislature is considering a bill that will move the deadline for notifying teachers whether or not they will be offered a contract for next school year from April 15 to June 15. Senate Democrats, along with teachers themselves, oppose this move because it gives teachers less time to prepare if they do in fact need to find a new job due to education budget cuts.

Republicans are billing the maneuver as a simple administrative issue to avoid "scaring" teachers unnecessarily. We don't know if they've been paying attention, but it's too late. Teachers are already scared. They have been scared since the Republican appropriations chairmen put out their budget options list which included nearly $900 million in cuts to K-12 education. We suspect they are trying to avoid acknowledging that they intend to propose further cuts to K-12 education in FY10. Doing so is not fair to employees that will be affected.

The issue is very simple: the current assumption, absent any further information, is that the FY10 budget will include further cuts to K-12 education. If that is the case, then it is incumbent upon us to make sure that teachers have time to plan. If there will not be further cuts to education, or if the number is less than $900 million, then that should be made known to school districts and the people they employ and serve. If Republican budget negotiators still have no idea what will be done with K-12 education with less than 90 days to go in this fiscal year, we have bigger problems than this bill.

Senate Democrats are standing up with teachers to make sure that they get fair warning if they are going to lose their jobs. If there will be further cuts to K-12 education in Arizona, it needs to be known and it needs to be known now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thank you For Prioritizing Children and Working Families

Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, D-16
(602) 926-5864
March 12, 2009


Thank you For Prioritizing Children and Working Families

Last week, Senate Democrats urged that the Governor and legislature come forward and stand up for children and working families by using stimulus money to help restore the cuts made to child care subsidies. I am glad that on Monday morning Arizona’s working families can know that they can go to work on Monday and not have to quit their jobs or leave their children in harms way.

Without this funding, 15,000 children will lose this vital assistance and 5,100 more will be put on a waiting list.

Last week, we met with the Governor’s staff to review a proposal that would restore $18.2 million in federal stimulus money to backfill the FY 2009 cuts to child care assistance. This would keep the current eligibility requirements for families earning less than 165% of the Federal Poverty Level in place.

It does not expand the current program, but rather, keeps the status quo which will help thousands of Arizona families keep their jobs.

We are glad that this proposal is moving forward in a bi-partisan manner for Arizona’s children and working families. Although this is a win in the short-run for them, we know that this proposal does not address anything for the 2010 budget.

Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini wrote that subsidies are, “Not because we have an obligation to care for other people's children, but because it takes a village to raise an economy.” [Source: “Why should we pay for Laura's kids?,” March 12, 2009]

Child care subsidies keep working parents working and children in safe places. They keep child care workers in their own jobs and businesses running. They prevent additional foreclosures. The legislature should take that into consideration as we move into the FY 2010 budget and reduce ways that we do further harm to the economy.
###

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez
Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477
jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov
http://www.azsenatedemocrats.com/

Thursday, March 5, 2009

REMINDER: Legislative Democrats to hold budget hearing at UA TONIGHT

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Legislative Democrats invite members of the public to a budget hearing tonight at the University of Arizona, the ninth in a series of hearings that will be held statewide.

Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees will be in attendance to hear citizens’ concerns of the deep cuts in the state budget.

University of Arizona - Tucson
When: Thursday, March 5, 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Where: Student Union Memorial Center building, South Ballroom
Paid Visitor Parking available in the Second Street Garage, near Second Street and Mountain Avenue

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Senate Democrats Request Governor to Call for Special Session on Child Care

Remarks by Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, D-16, from today's press conference at 10 a.m. on the House Lawn at the State Capitol.
March 4, 2009


Senate Democrats Request Governor to Call for Special Session on Child Care

Thank you all for coming. We are here today to urge Governor Brewer to immediately call a Special Session of the Legislature to restore funding for child care subsidies.

We are imploring her, as part of her planned speech later today, to include a call for a Special Session devoted to using part of the $50 million dollars in Federal Stimulus child care money to restore the cuts to DES.

Without this funding, 15,000 children will lose this vital assistance and 5,100 more will be put on a waiting list.

We met with the Governor’s staff yesterday to review a proposal that would restore $18.2 million in federal stimulus money to backfill the FY 2009 cuts to child care assistance. This would keep the current eligibility requirements for families earning less than 165% of the Federal Poverty Level in place.

It does not expand the current program, but rather, keeps the status quo which will help thousands of Arizona families keep their jobs.

We stand here in support of the Governor’s Plan. We will work with her in a bi-partisan manner to make sure that we protect Arizona’s children and working families.

###

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez
Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477
jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov
http://www.azsenatedemocrats.com/

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Senate Democratic Budget Strategies


Senator Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27
Democratic Leader

Arizona Senate Democrats announced budget strategies for FY 2010 totaling $3.5 billion. We have heard from numerous constituents at budget hearings we held around the state and from thousands who have come to the Capitol. The clear message is that they want to know other strategies aside from more draconian cuts and tax increases proposed by the Republican Majority.

Strategies include, $500 million from securitization (Lottery or Prisons), $100 million in agency fund transfers, $247 million from statewide equalization rate, $22 million from Department of Corrections home arrest, $75 million in university rollover, $167 million in DES, AHCCCS, RBHA provider payment deferrals and $55 million in TPT Estimated Payment Threshold. The strategies also include $168 million in suspension of individual tax credits, $81 million in corporate tax credits, $580 million in ongoing savings from FY 2008-2009 and $1.4 billion from the federal stimulus.

The list of strategies is just that. It is a list of other opportunities that exist.

For clarification, tax credits are existing state dollars, not additional tax liability. The state allows people to direct part of their tax dollars to special interests of their choosing through tax credits, many of which were approved when state revenues were plentiful.

In 2006, in exchange for implementing all-day kindergarten, Governor Napolitano agreed to reduce personal income tax by 10 percent, implement corporate tuition tax credits and a three-year suspension of the state equalization rate. The three years are up and the corporate welfare clients want to continue the handout. On a $200,000 home, this rate is only roughly $68 per year. In a recent hearing, APS agreed that their reduction for the Palo Verde plan is $3.2 million. The APS total benefit is estimated at $7 million.

If we are to remain a state that wants businesses to come here and stay here, we must not decimate our state. What business is going to want to relocate to a state with an education system that is funded next to last in the 50 states? What business wants to relocate to a state that breaks contracts with businesses as was done in the FY 2009 budget? I cannot name one.

When it comes to making the tough decisions, I would rather the universities to restore the AIMS scholarships and not cap enrollment rather than continue a multimillion dollar giveaway to APS and others. Senate Democrats make education a priority in Arizona.