Thursday, February 26, 2009

Arizona’s Workers Put at Risk

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

February 24, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Arizona’s Workers Put at Risk

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor will be holding a press conference to put faces to the Fiscal Year 2009 budget cuts passed by the Republican Majority at the Arizona Legislature with a specific focus on cuts to childcare subsidies. These cuts are having a trickle-down effect on many of Arizona’s children and working families.


Date: Tuesday, March 3
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: House Lawn, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, Ariz.


“Cutting daycare subsidies for the working poor makes it excruciatingly difficult for people to continue to provide for their families and pay for adequate childcare,” said Sen. Landrum Taylor. “Cuts will force people to leave their jobs or not be able to look for jobs. Childcare is the single most common factor that either enhances the ability to work or prevents the ability to work. The situation is much worse for families who cannot continue to keep their children in safe child care, especially now that CPS is so stretched.”

This immediately affects 5,000 children and will affect 20,000 by the end of the fiscal year. This policy decision will make more people apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the State Nutrition Assistance Program and AHCCCS.

We invite families and childcare providers to attend to describe what the cuts will mean to them and their children.

This rally and press conference comes on the heels of Governor Brewer’s announcement that state agencies should prepare documentation showing a 20 percent cut to the FY 2009 budget fix. This is on top of the draconian cuts that have already been enacted.

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Additional Media Contact:

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 * jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bring out the Budget Axe...Again

While state agencies are still determining what a 15 percent reduction does to services for the vulnerable populations, Governor Jan Brewer is calling for them to deliver documentation to her office showing an additional 20 percent cut to the FY 2009 budget fix.

Earlier today, Senate Democrats produced a list of other strategies that could be used instead of additional deep cuts and higher taxes.

"It is absolutely incredible that on the day we delivered a list of how $3.5 billion in strategies could be made to the state's budget without additional draconian cuts and increased taxes that the Governor would proceed to look at additional cuts," said Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia. "Arizonans have come out by the thousands to tell us how they don't want additional cuts, yet this is how the Governor's Office is proceeding."

Senate Democratic Budget Strategies Announcement















February 24, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senate Democratic Budget Strategies Announcement

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Senate Democrats announced budget strategies for Fiscal Year 2010 in response to the need for other strategies aside from draconian cuts and tax increases.

“We have heard from numerous constituents at the budget hearings we held around the state and from those who have come to the Capitol by the thousands,” said Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia. “The clear message is that they want to know other strategies aside from more draconian cuts and tax increases.”

Senate Democrat Budget Strategies include:

Securitization (Lottery or Prisons) $500 million
Agency Fund Transfers $100 million
Statewide Equalization Rate $247 million
DOC Home Arrest $22 million
University Rollover $75 million
DES, AHCCCS, RBHA provider payment deferrals $167 million
TPT Estimated Payment Threshold $55 million

During the 11:30 press conference today, Democratic Senators gave testimony on how this budget has affected people, healthcare, K-12 education and higher education.

“The FY ’09 budget didn’t need to happen this way,” said Sen. Garcia. “There were other strategies and we have shown some of those today.”

To date, nearly a thousand people have been laid off and tens of thousands have been furloughed. Senate Democrats are maintaining a counter on their blog at http://www.azsenatedemocrats.com/ of how many people have been affected by the FY ’09 budget passed by the majority in the middle of the night to meet a fabricated deadline.

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

Legislative Democrats to discuss budget impact on Native Americans

Legislative Democrats to discuss budget impact on Native Americans

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Chris Deschene, D-St. Michaels (District 2) and Sen. Albert Hale, D-Klagetoh (District 2), along with tribal leaders and members will discuss on Wednesday how the deep cuts to the state budget are severely impacting Native American populations in Arizona.

“These cuts, which specifically have impacted education, health care and other programs, have severely cut off Native Americans in Arizona from their economic lifeline, future and well-being,” Deschene said. “Legislators and the public need to know the impacts of these deep cuts so the same mistake isn’t made in the 2010 budget.”

"There are other options available," Hale said. "Additional funding cuts set back programs by a number of years and more importantly deny funding of programs critical to our youth, disabled and seniors. We are in this situation together. We have to find solutions together."

When: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 12:15 p.m.
Where: Capitol Rose Garden, NORTH of the old Capitol building, WEST of the House



-30-


Sarah Muench
Public Information Officer
Arizona State Legislature, House Democratic Caucus
(602) 926-5848
smuench@azleg.gov


Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez
Director of Communication/ Policy Advisor Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477
jtejeda@azleg.gov

Contradictions Abound

During the week Governor Jan Brewer made the following statement nearly 1,000 people had already been laid off and nearly 30,000 were furloughed. 

The governor said she believes creating jobs should be the government's top priority. She said it was nice for Obama to visit Arizona and try to deal with the foreclosure problem, but, "If you don't have a job and you cannot afford a mortgage, you're going to be right back in the same situation you were in."
All of these people were given little to no notice. Not only did this not allow them to adequately plan for their futures, but some layoff decisions were made contrary to our own state guidelines. 

Senate Democratic Budget Options Announcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senate Democratic Budget Options Announcement

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Senate Democrats will announce their budget options for Fiscal Year 2010.

When:              Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 at 11:30 a.m.

Where:             Senate Lawn, 1700 W. Washington St. Phoenix, AZ


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Additional Media Contact:

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus

602-926-4477  jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Friday, February 20, 2009

Families Torn by State Budget Cuts Rally at the Capitol and Tucson

February 20, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Phoenix Families Torn by State Budget Cuts Rally at the Capitol, 300 More Rally in Tucson

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Over 150 people rallied at the Capitol today with Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, to support children and families by putting faces to the families affected by the cuts made to the Department of Economic Services and the Healthy Families program. In Tucson, 300 more rallied with Sens. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, and Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, at the headquarters of Child and Family Resources, Inc.

“These programs are necessary to the stability of our community, especially during an economic crisis when families need the most support,” said Sen. Landrum Taylor. “There were so many other options instead of decimating our communities. It didn’t have to be like this. We’re robbing future generation from a sound, healthy environment and that is not something we should stand for.”

The cuts to the Healthy Family and Choices contracts caused many organizations, such as Child and Family Resources to layoff 70 staff members.

“The real tragedy is the loss of services to families and children across our state, 3,000 families and children just from our agency alone,” said Lydia Medina, Regional Director for Child & Family Resources, Inc. “The programs lost serve the most vulnerable children and families, many of whom have already been involved in the Child Protective Services system. We urge all of you to fight for the services our children and families deserve.”

Two mothers of children with developmental disabilities served by early intervention programs gave their testimonies regarding the service cuts.

“It’s an emotional charging subject because I think that if it’s never affected you, if you’ve never been faced with it or never had a family member whose had some type of problem, some type of or delay, some type of issue that’s needed a little bit of extra help then it might not mean that much to you,” said Becca Marquette. “I was probably in that case three and a half years ago when my daughter was born and at 6 months old, she was diagnosed with developmental delays. With the help of early intervention, she’s made remarkable strides. To cut that future, that promise, that hope out of families lives…it’s astounding. It’s time to do what’s right. Think about our kids.”

Nicki Garcia, the mother of a one year old daughter with Down syndrome, worked for Healthy Families only a few years ago.

“Here I am a few years later and I’m on the other side now. My little girl has disabilities and she needs your help. My husband and I say all the time that we are so blessed that we live in a society that takes care of our kids and thank God she wasn’t born 20 years ago because she wouldn’t have had any of this. Now here we are and everything has been stripped from her in one day. They’re kids, they’re souls and they can’t do it alone. We need your help.”

Event coverage: 
KGUN 9 (ABC) Tucson: http://www.kgun9.com/global/video/popup/pop_playerLaunch.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=3472310&at1=News&h1=DES Cuts Jeopardize Music Therapy




Thursday, February 19, 2009

Legislative Democrats to hold budget hearings at ASU, UA and Sierra Vista

Legislative Democrats to hold budget hearings at ASU, UA and Sierra Vista

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Legislative Democrats invite members of the public to budget hearings at Arizona State University, in Sierra Vista and at the University of Arizona, the seventh, eighth and 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.

Arizona State University Main - Tempe
When: Monday, Feb. 23, 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Where: Memorial Union (MU) building, Ventana Room, Second Floor Room 241
Visitor Parking available in Parking Structure 1 ($2/hr) near Apache Boulevard and College Avenue

Sierra Vista
When: Thursday, Feb. 26, 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Cochise College, Sierra Vista Campus
901 N. Colombo Ave., Sierra Vista, Ariz. 85635

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, February 18, 2009

Tucson Families Torn by State Budget Cuts

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Linda Lopez, D-29
Democratic Whip
(602) 926-4089

Senator Paula Aboud, D-28
(602) 926-5262
February 17, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tucson Families Torn by State Budget Cuts

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Tucson) and Sen. Paula Aboud (D-Tucson) will be holding a press conference to put faces to the Fiscal Year 2009 budget cuts passed by the Republican Majority at the Arizona Legislature.

Date: Friday, Feb. 20
Time: Noon
Location: Child and Family Resources, 2800 E. Broadway, Tucson, Ariz., 520-881-8940

The cuts to the Healthy Family and Choices contracts caused many organizations, such as Child and Family Resources to layoff staff.

“These programs are necessary to the stability of our community, especially during an economic crisis,” said Sen. Linda Lopez. “With staff layoffs to these programs, the state is actually adding to the unemployment problem. Now, many of these staff and families will now be receiving services along with their children.”

“What is immensely troubling is that there will be many more DES programs that are being slashed, but many cuts have not yet been revealed,” said Sen. Paula Aboud. “There were so many other possibilities available to us rather than decimating our communities, but the Republican Majority chose huge cuts over sensible options.”

Families will be on hand to describe what the cuts will mean to them and their children.

Republican Leadership pushed the state budget proposal to a vote despite not understanding the impact it would have on Arizonans. One week after voting for the FY 2009 budget, Senate President Bob Burns (R-Peoria) proclaimed, "We don't have the staff to evaluate what just went out the door.”

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Additional Media Contact:


Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 * jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Phoenix Families Torn by State Budget Cuts

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

February 18, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Phoenix Families Torn by State Budget Cuts

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor will be holding a press conference to put faces to the Fiscal Year 2009 budget cuts passed by the Republican Majority at the Arizona Legislature.

Date: Friday, Feb. 20
Time: Noon
Location: Senate Lawn, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, Ariz.

The cuts to the Healthy Family and Choices contracts caused many organizations, such as Child and Family Resources to layoff staff.

“These programs are necessary to the stability of our community, especially during an economic crisis when families need the most support,” said Sen. Landrum Taylor. “There were so many other options instead of decimating our communities. People are tired of this state deficit being used as a ploy to reduce government and eliminate the safety nets people rely upon in a devastating economic time.”

Families will be on hand to describe what the cuts will mean to them and their children.

Republican Leadership pushed the state budget proposal to a vote despite not understanding the impact it would have on Arizonans. One week after voting for the FY 2009 budget, Senate President Bob Burns (R-Peoria) proclaimed, "We don't have the staff to evaluate what just went out the door.”

###


Additional Media Contact:

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 * jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Monday, February 16, 2009

Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus Calls for Federal Investigation and Forum

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Richard Miranda, D-13
(602) 926-5911
February 16, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE

Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus Calls for Federal Investigation and Forum


STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix –
Members of the Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus are holding a press conference calling on the Department of Justice and Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 17
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: House Lawn, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ


“The Maricopa County Sheriff has a history of discriminating against Hispanic citizens and non-citizens alike,” said Sen. Richard Miranda, Co-Chair of the Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus. “As an example, in 2007 and through 2008, the Sheriff targeted Hispanic neighborhoods for “crime suppression” sweeps. The sweeps used saturation patrols to stop residents in densely populated Hispanic neighborhoods for trivial traffic violations. These residents, often stopped for a cracked windshield or a broken taillight, were intimidated and subjected to needless encounters with Sheriffs’ officers.”

The Caucus strongly supports the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s call for an investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s disregard for rights of Hispanic relations. The Caucus has extended an invitation to House Judiciary Chair, John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan), and representatives from the Department of Justice and Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to an informational forum that will be held in Phoenix in March to hear about the violations from the local community.

“The Maricopa County Attorney, who represents the Sheriff, has publically opined that segregating inmates by race is unconstitutional. Yet despite these statements, neither the county attorney, nor anyone else with jurisdiction over these matters has done anything to determine whether any of these continuing actions by the Sheriff are legal,” said Sen. Miranda. “This inaction, by officials who are elected or appointed to protect the civil rights of all people within the borders of our county, is intolerable.”

The Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus sent a letter to the Department of Justice and Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement calling for action.

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Additional Media Contact: Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, 602-926-4477 jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Get Your Stories Straight

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27
Democratic Leader

February 16, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Get Your Stories Straight

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – The Arizona Republic reported on Saturday that Governor Jan Brewer may be plotting a spring special election to ask Arizona voters for a tax increase and to remove protections from voter-approved programs.
(http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/02/14/20090214special-election0214.html)

“Folks, get your stories straight. Are you going to increase taxes or are you going to give tax breaks? It does not make sense to increase taxes when a Republican priority is to make permanent the equalization property tax rate,” said Democratic Leader Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia (D-Tucson). “We still need to review all of our options and better options are available.”

While Arizonans are struggling during an economic recession and 219,000 of you are unemployed, Gov. Brewer wants you to find more money to pay taxes. While the Republican Majority continues to dole out tax credits to private entities, they want you to pay more taxes. The Department of Economic Security reported Friday that they would be cutting childcare assistance to families, which minimally affects 20,000 children, but those families will be asked to pay more taxes.

We encourage you to contact your legislators and let them know that you do not want your taxes increased while the Republican Majority continues to give away Arizona’s tax dollars.

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

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President Obama's Visit

President Barack Obama is expected to speak about his foreclosure plan during his visit to the Valley on Wednesday. The President will speak at Dobson High School in Mesa at 10:15 a.m. Tickets are required.

Only 300-400 public tickets are available and they will be given out at 10 a.m. today at the high school. As of this morning, there were 600-700 people in line already. Some had camped out starting at 8 p.m. yesterday.

The President will be leaving Phoenix by 12:45 p.m.

Friday, February 13, 2009

We're #1! In giving away taxpayer money...

Given the recent statewide outrage over the recent $100-plus million cuts to K-12 and higher education, Arizonans might be startled to know that the state gave away $71.3 million in taxpayer dollars to private schools last fiscal year. These funds paid or helped to pay for 29,539 students to attend private schools, according to a new report issued by the Alliance for School Choice and covered today by the East Valley Tribune.

The money was given away through four state programs designed to assist students in attending private school: the individual and corporate income tuition tax credits, and voucher programs for disabled students and students that have been adopted from foster care. The individual income tax tredit is the big winner, successfully pilfering over $54 million from state coffers, followed by the corporate program at $12 million, and the voucher programs at $2.5 million apiece.

What's more, the corporate income tax credit increases automatically by 20 percent each year automatically. To add insult to injury, Rep. Steve Yarbrough, who also happens to run an organization that benefits from the tax credits, has introduced a bill that lets insurance companies get in on the fun.

Whether or not to allow these programs to continue for FY '10 or suspend them is a subject of ongoing debate down here at the Legislature. But Senate Democrats are certain that expanding them at this time is bad for Arizona.

Yet Another Example of Budget Disjoint

Here is yet another example of disjoint between voting for the FY '09 Republican budget and cuts to needed services. Sen. Linda Gray (R-Phoenix) donated 19 cell phones to the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, but voted for the budget that eliminated state aid to domestic violence shelters. (http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/press/Senate/49leg/1R/CELL+PHONE+DV+RELEASE%2EDOC.htm)

The Republican budget included $787,500 in cuts to the Domestic Violence Shelter Fund. This is the fund that assists in providing shelter for adults and children to escape from dangerous situations. It is immediately after leaving an abusive partner when a safe haven is most needed.

As you may recall from a previous post, Republicans do not know exactly what they voted for in their own budget.

"We don't have the staff to evaluate what just went out the door," said President Bob Burns (R-9) on Feb. 9 in reference to the FY '09 budget the majority of Republicans rushed to pass to meet a self-fabricated deadline.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

President’s Visit Comes at Crucial Time for Arizona

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27
Democratic Leader

February 12, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

President’s Visit Comes at Crucial Time for Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Senate Democrats are absolutely thrilled that President Barack Obama will be in Phoenix next week to speak about the economic stimulus plan.

“President Barack Obama’s trip could not come at a better time. The cuts in the Republican budget have put our state’s economic vitality and education system in serious jeopardy. The stimulus plan needs to be part of the solution to not gutting our state,” said Democratic Leader Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia (D-Tucson).

The Republican budget passed in the early hours of Jan. 31 cut nearly $282 million in funding for K-12 and higher education.

“Now, when our state is ranked 50 in K-12 spending and pupil to teacher ratio, this is not the time to keep cutting at our system,” said Sen. Garcia. “Republicans, as evidenced in the Education Committee meeting today, do not see the relationship between properly funding our schools and academic achievement. With this type of ideology, it is plausible that the Majority will keep cutting away at our children’s future.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Arizona Bottom of Conservative Group's Education Funding List

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization with many Arizona Republican members, released today the 15th Annual Report Card on Education. For a while now, Arizona had been looming around the middle of the list, but today it is finally official that Arizona has made it to the bottom of the list for expenditures per pupil and pupil-teacher ratio. That means, contrary to many comments by Republican members made from the Senate Floor today, taking what Senate Republicans "believe" is a small percentage away from schools was enough to send us rocketing from 31 to 50. Now, even conservative organizations cannot deny that Arizona is bad at funding public education with only Utah below us.

Take a look for yourself:
http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/ReportCard08.pdf
Arizona is on page 14.

We encourage you to contact your legislators and let them know that you do not want Arizona’s children to be at the bottom of the list.

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

Republicans Use Bogus Numbers to Justify Education Cuts

It has come to the attention of the Senate Democrats that Republican Sen. Russell Pearce has concocted his own numbers to justify the recent and anticipated cuts to K-12 and higher education. These numbers are poorly cited and cherry-picked to support the position that Arizona is not actually a lowly 49th in education funding. Recently, many legislators have become virtually obsessed with proving that Arizona isn't actually near the bottom of the United States in funding for K-12 education. This has been a crusade of theirs for years, but the efforts seem to have stepped up considerably as cuts to K-12 education have been considered. We could use a lot of space here throwing a lot of numbers at you to refute Mr. Pearce's numbers, because they are in fact inaccurate. But suffice it to say that Arizona is near the bottom of the nation in per-pupil education funding when you consider a fact that Mr. Pearce does not, and that is that state pays for schools in Arizona (or at least we used to), which is not the case in other states.

The real issue is this: it doesn't matter whether we are 21st or 49th in education funding on a chart. Professional educators are telling us that these cuts are devastating to them. Senate Democrats are not interested in playing the numbers game. What we are interested in doing is listening to educators and parents when they tell us what type of impact the enacted and proposed cuts will have on our schools. Our suspicion is that Mr. Pearce has been receiving plenty of emails from Arizonans in support of education, and he got tired of being told he was wrong.

Monday, February 9, 2009

You voted for a budget you didn't evaluate?

The Republican Majority pushed a vote on the budget in the early hours of Jan. 31 with session concluding at 2 a.m. Now, as state agencies are coming forth to explain layoffs, furloughs and program cuts, the Senate President proclaimed the following during their weekly media briefing today.

"We don't have the staff to evaluate what just went out the door," said President Bob Burns (R-9) in reference to the Fiscal Year '09 budget the majority of Republicans voted to pass.

One might wonder why legislators would push a budget to a vote without knowing the contents of the legislation including layoffs, cuts to programs their constituents depend on and whether a fund even has money before they sweep it.

Republican Perspective on Education Cuts All Wrong



Two hundred seventy-eight million. That's the total number of dollars that was cut from K-12 and higher education by the recently passed state budget adjustment. Excuses from Republicans abound to minimize this number. It's "only 3.2 percent from the general fund" according to a press release by Sen. Linda Gray of Phoenix. Other popular excuses include that these cuts only take education back to FY07 funding levels and that school districts have too much administrative overhead. The bottom line is that Kindergarten teachers through college professors are now expected to educate our residents on $278 million less than they had before.

And, unfortunately, they will do it. They will do it because they are dedicated to to the promise of quality public education. And the very same people that voted for those cuts will point to this and say "See? I told you we were paying too much, because they're still doing just fine." And next time there is a funding shortage, they will cut, and the same people who stepped up to keep delivering for Arizona will rise to the challenge again. And again, and again. Because they don't have a choice. They are the ones that bear the responsibility for keeping the system going. Because if they don't, guess who comes down on them for not keeping AIMS scores high enough, or for letting graduation rates get too low? That's right, the same people who voted to cut "only 3.2 percent," to "just" take them back to 2007 levels. Let's take a look at FY07 vs. FY09:
  • In fiscal year 2007, 1,024,164 students attended Arizona public schools. In fiscal year 2009, 1,156,300 students are expected to attend, an increase of over 130,000.
  • In each of Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009, the legislature awarded much-needed pay increases to teachers, totaling over $100 million each year.
  • In both FY2007 and FY2009, the students per staff ratio in Arizona schools is virtually the same: 9.49 in 2007 vs. 9.57 in 2009. So much for claims of rampant administrative growth.
  • In FY2007, the three state universities enrolled 107,616 full-time students. In FY2009, 113,251, an increase of 5,635.
  • After the FY09 budget adjustments, those same universities have $24.5 million less than they did in FY2007 to educate those additional students.

The truth is that much of the growth in the costs of education are due higher enrollment and salary increases that everyone agreed were a good idea. Those are the facts about what this budget adjustment did to education. Children and young adults don't stop needing an education when times are bad, and these very institutions are what promise to insulate our state as much as possible from future economic crises. The system could always work better, but statements that there is rampant waste in public education at all levels are patently false. We simply cannot keep asking people to do more with less, then blaming them when performance suffers, and rewarding them with an "I told you so" when they manage to pick up the slack.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Arizona’s Retromingent Budget

Arizona’s Retromingent Budget
Sen. Debbie McCune Davis (D-14, Phoenix)

As I watched (most of) my Republican colleagues adopt the ’09 budget fix in the wee hours of Saturday morning, the only word that came to mind was retromingent. I knew I had heard this word in a legislative context used before by former State Senator Peter Kay of Phoenix, but I could not recall it fitting any similar situation quite as well as this one. I thank him for introducing me to this most interesting word.

The 2009 budget fix, though necessary, was not thoroughly vetted through the legislative process due to a leadership-imposed deadline of February 1. It is my personal belief that no one involved in the budget process, including leadership, budget committee chairs, and staff, knew the impact of the actions being taken. Numbers just had to add up on paper. Most conversations about the budget took place outside the public eye, so we can only speculate about questions asked and answered in those settings. The evidence will come clear in the next few days as state agencies and public/private sector partners describe the programmatic carnage.

So, how does a budget become retromingent, you ask? It occurs when budget cuts or fund sweeps go beyond the number of dollars available. The budget cuts and fund sweeps didn't stop at taking available funds, but in many cases cut into funds that were already obligated through grants or contracts. The question that remains unanswered is whether these cuts require the return of funds to the State that are in the hands of programs and partners already engaged in activity on behalf of the State. Take backs, if required, seem clearly retromingent to me. Particularly when we are talking about economic development funds, or research and development funds, or scholarship funds or human services, etc. You get the picture…

My experience tells me there are more of these actions in the budget than you think. A good example of retromingent behavior comes to mind when you think of the actions of Representative Sam Crump (R-Anthem) and his gang of five demanding depletion of the Arizona 21st Century Competitive Initiative Fund. Heaven forbid we strive to get out of the rut of depending on real estate for our economic vitality and broaden our vision and expertise in biomedical research, information/communications technology, and sustainable systems. Pity the poor entrepreneur that went through extensive due diligence to qualify for a grant from Science Foundation Arizona and now may have to return the money. I'm pretty sure they'll long remember the full impact of the retromingent budget cuts as promises made and then broken. Picture that as you think of the “Crump bunch” gleefully demanding these funds be cut…but be cautious. You won’t want to be too close when you learn the true meaning of retromingent.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Legislation to Require Foreclosure Notification to Renters

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, D-16
(602) 926-5864
February 4, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Legislation to Require Foreclosure Notification to Renters

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor (D-16) will be holding a press conference to announce the introduction of legislation that would require landlords to provide foreclosure notification to renters.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Rose Garden, 1700 W. Washington St. Phoenix, AZ
(Located between the House and Executive Tower)


The housing crisis is now trickling down and creating problems for people in rental homes. The renters believe that the owners are diligently passing along the payments on to the lien holder, but they are not.

“I have heard numerous stories from people in the community who have been given obscenely short notice to have to move an entire family because the owner of a home they were renting allowed the property to go into foreclosure,” said Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor.

While the owner of the home is fully aware of the financial straits, current state law does not provide renters the same notification that the property owner receives. This legislation, if passed, would provide renters with a thirty-day notification of a foreclosure sale. A landlord who knowingly fails to provide notification is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.

“Currently, there is no incentive for the property owner to provide that information and families are being thrown into chaos,” said Sen. Landrum Taylor. “Laws should protect families and clearly, in this situation, our laws are not protecting them.”


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Additional Media Contact:
Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez
Director of Communication
Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 * jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Legislative Democrats Announce Budget Hearing in Tucson

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Legislature, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27
Senate Democratic Leader
(602) 926-4171

Rep. David Lujan, D-15
House Democratic Leader
(602) 926-5829

February 3, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Legislative Democrats Announce Budget Hearing in Tucson

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Legislative Democrats invite members of the public to a budget hearing in Tucson this Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Amphitheater High School’s Murphy Auditorium. Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees will be in attendance to hear citizens’ concerns of the drastic cuts in the state budget.

Where: Amphitheater High School, Murphy Auditorium
125 W. Yavapai, Tucson, Ariz.
Located just South of Prince off of Stone

When: Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 from 7 to 9 p.m.

This is the fourth in a series of statewide hearings hosted by Legislative Democrats. Previous hearings have been held in Casa Grande, Phoenix and Yuma. The final hearing is scheduled for Flagstaff next week. Details will be released as they are available.

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Additional Media Contacts:
Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 – jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Sarah Muench, Public Information Officer, House Democratic Caucus
602-926-5848 – smuench@azleg.gov

Monday, February 2, 2009

Republicans Slash Education, Healthcare, Natural Resources

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27
Democratic Leader
(602) 926-4171

February 2, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Republicans Slash Education, Healthcare, Natural Resources

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Senate Democrats offered numerous amendments to lessen some of the worst cuts in the Republican budget that passed in the early hours of January 31.

“The draconian cuts in the Republican budget harm services for children and families and puts our economic vitality in serious jeopardy,” said Democratic Leader Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia (D-Tucson). “The Majority could have used more of the federal economic stimulus package, but instead chose to cut at vital services our state needs and cannot even answer how drastically a 10% lump sum cut will actually hurt our state.”

Sen. Garcia offered an amendment to restore all funding to K-12, universities and community colleges. For K-12, education this is a $98.1 million formula cut and a $21 million capital cut (e.g., textbooks, computers, school buses). For universities, this is a $141 million cut across all three universities.

Sen. Garcia offered a second amendment removing the fund sweep of $7 million in interest earnings from the early childhood development and health fund to the state General Fund.

“It is completely irresponsible for the Republican majority to cut more than $260 million dollars out of education while continuing to dole out tax breaks,” said Sen. Garcia.

Democratic Whip Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Tucson) offered an amendment to require that any federal assistance the state receives above the $500 million scored as additional revenue to fund the following AHCCCS programs in order: heart, kidney and other vital organ transplants; disproportionate share funds for hospitals serving the poor; and Graduate Medical Education funds for residencies for doctors. Sen. Lopez offered a second amendment to restore funding for newborn screening services by using a fund sweep identified by Governor Brewer available from the state lake improvement fund for a study of a contact point at Lake Havasu.

“It is unconscionable to think this budget is not providing vital health services to even the youngest babies, but we continue to fund pork projects like the Lake Havasu study,” said Sen. Lopez.

Sen. Meg Burton Cahill (D-Tempe) offered amendments to remove the $1.9 million transfer from the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund to the General Fund. Sen. Burton Cahill offered a second amendment to remove the transfer of $3 million from the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund to the Fire Suppression Revolving Fund.

“This fund provides for numerous Game and Fish programs in our state parks, which are crucial to our state’s tourism and economy,” said Sen. Burton Cahill. “By making this cut, we are putting economic growth and wildlife habitats in jeopardy.”

Republican leadership claimed that the budget process this session would be transparent, but instead public comment time in committee was virtually inexistent and budget negotiations were closed to Democrats and to the voices of their constituents. Legislative Democrats held a public budget forum on Thursday, Jan. 29 and heard from 300 Arizonans who all urged Democrats to help protect funding for education, health and the disabled.

Tonight, Legislative Democrats will hold another budget hearing tonight to hear from constituents in Yuma from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Arizona Western College, 2020 S. Ave. 8E, Yuma, Ariz., in the College Community Center.

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Additional Media Contact:
Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez
Director of Communication
Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 * jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Phoenix Budget Hearing Wrap-Up & Yuma Reminder

On Thursday, Jan. 29, Legislative Democrats hosted a budget hearing in Phoenix for the public to express their opinions about the impending Republican budget proposal. Three hundred members of the community convened for a three-hour forum. Foremost on their minds was protecting funding for education and health services. Here are a few photos.











Tonight, Legislative Democrats will host another budget hearing from 7 to 9 p.m. at Arizona Western College, 2020 S. Ave. 8E, Yuma, Ariz., in the College Community Center. We invite the public to come speak about their concerns and to hear a short presentation on the FY 2009 budget. The FY 2009 budget was passed just after 2 a.m. on Saturday morning and signed by Governor Brewer later that morning.