Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Senate Democrats Introduce Amendments to Reverse Damage in Senate Republican Budget

Democratic members in the Senate Appropriations committee introduced a number of amendments in order to reverse the severe damage the Senate Republican budget does on the state and vital services necessary in an economic downturn.

“Once again Republicans have balanced the budget by cutting education and vital services to abused children, the elderly and disabled, yet still give a tax break to big business,” said Sen. Rebecca Rios, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader (D-23). “The Republican budget is short-sighted, reactionary and jeopardizes Arizona.”

“Studies now show one in five young children in Arizona live on the brink of hunger and seniors are choosing between food and medicine, but this budget cuts funding for food banks. This budget makes cuts to domestic violence shelters now when the combined increase in violence and reductions make waiting lists higher than ever,” said Sen. Paula Aboud (D-28). “This budget does not cost-share like it has been claimed. For instance, one agency that helps protect cars, received a one-percent cut while the Department of Health Services received a 17.1 percent cut.”

“The proposal we heard today only balances the budget on the backs of children again. We need to make sure Arizonans are provided the services they need, especially now during this economic downturn,” said Sen. Amanda Aguirre (D-24). “By moving these bills today after only being released late last night, our citizens of the state of Arizona will not have another opportunity to make another statement regarding this budget in a public forum and that is a shame.”

“The leadership we provide in these hard times will be measured by how well we take care of our youth, our elders and our disabled. There are other options and we should look at other options before making these types of cuts,” said Sen. Albert Hale (D-2).

The Senate Republican budget makes $661 million in cuts, uses $153 in payment rollovers and sweeps $393 million from agencies. It utilizes the $737 million in Medicare match rate and $324 from stabilization funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bills count on $240 million in additional revenue including the sale of three state prisons, unclaimed property and the elimination of Rio Nuevo tax financing. It also counts on $50 million in AHCCCS fraud reduction.

Amendments are described and ordered by agency below. The member’s name who introduced the amendment is in parenthesis.

Arizona Department of Administration: Strike definition of “eligible dependents”: The purpose of adding this new language is to supersede the new state rule approved last year that allowed for domestic partners of state employees, both straight and gay, to qualify for state health insurance coverage. (Aboud)

Agriculture: Restores fund sweeps from the commercial feed fund (14,600), the designated fund (107,800), the fertilizer materials fund (17,300) and the pesticide fund (19,700). (Aguirre)

AHCCCS: Change eligibility for KidsCare back to 200% (Hale)

Office of the Attorney General: Restores general fund and other fund money to the AG’s Office totaling $10.9 million ($6,629,100 in General Fund and $4,242,900 in other funds). (Rios)

Department of Commerce: Restore $931,000 to rural communities through the Greater Arizona Development Authority. (Aguirre)

Department of Corrections:
Restoring dollars for correctional officers personnel reduction – $12,627,700. (Aguirre)
Requires a private prison operating the Perryville, Yuma and Eyman facilities to annually report the average number of prisoners incarcerated and the crime for which each person was convicted. (Aguirre)

Department of Economic Security:
Restores $15,918,700 to support CPS in-home services and out-of-home care. (Aguirre)
Restore dollars to food banks – $167,600 (Aboud)
Restore senior assisted living – $2,061,000 (Aguirre)
Restore domestic violence funds – $2,217,200 (Aboud)
Restores $13,300,000 to DES to fund services to the developmentally disabled and the Arizona Restores Early Intervention Program (AzEIP). (Rios)
Adds 2% to AHCCCS, DES and DHS Medicaid programs to fund medical inflation costs, and eliminates the proposed 5% rate cut for AHCCCS providers. (Aguirre)

Education:
Restores $175 million in soft capital cuts to school districts. Soft capital includes technology, textbooks, library resources, instructional aids, pupil transportation vehicles, furniture and equipment. (Rios)
Union representation: Removes anti-union provisions from the bill. (Rios)
These provisions include: Require the removal from the district payroll of union representatives with no further definition, which, while clearly aimed at full-time release association officers, is worded vaguely enough to permit a district to fire any union member, as any member of the organization could be its “representative” at any given time.
Require teachers to pay for their own substitute if they are engaged in lobbying activity. All other public employees are permitted to exercise their first amendment rights as long as they are on their own time.
Eliminate deadlines for notification of the offer of contract and/or reductions in pay.
· Strikes language that permanently repeals the state equalization tax. (Hale)

Department of Health Services:
Restore community health centers in the amount of $2,403,048 (Aguirre)
Restore Non-Title XIX Serious Mental Illness funding and behavioral health (Aboud)
Arnold v. Sarn – (Rios)
The changes in the bill are designed to remove the legal basis of the Arnold v Sarn lawsuit initially filed in 1981 that resulted in the 1985 court order that required DHS to “provide a unified and cohesive system of community health care” for SMI.
These proposed statutory changes, in addition to the elimination of all Non-Title 19 SMI funding in the feed bill, will likely result in no services for the SMI population if not T-19 eligible (i.e. - 100% or the FPL)
This huge policy shift not only unnecessarily targets one of our society’s most vulnerable populations, but is also likely have other huge impacts.

Commission on Indian Affairs: Sweeps $3 million from House balance to fund the Commission on Indian Affairs. The balance would go to the General Fund. (Hale)

Department of Revenue:
Restoring $18,451,300 and 112 FTEs cut from the Department of Revenue to enable DOR the staffing resources necessary to collect taxes owed, potentially increasing state revenue by $150 million. (Aboud)

Universities:
Restores “auxiliary” fund monies totaling approximately $90 million. (Aboud)
Restore funding for community colleges for operating in the amount of $9,152,000 (Aguirre)

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