Monday, November 30, 2009

Legislative Advocacy Forums

We invite the public to the following legislative advocacy forums to hear about the budget, legislative process and how citizens can become involved in the process.

Tucson
When: Dec. 7, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Eckstrom Columbus Library, 4350 E. 22nd St., Tucson

Yuma
When: Dec. 8, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Arizona Western College, Community Center Conference Room, 2020 S. Avenue 8E, Yuma

Sierra Vista
When: Dec. 9, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Cochise College, Sierra Vista Campus, Horace Steele Conference Room, 901 N. Colombo Ave., Sierra Vista

Casa Grande
When: Jan. 5, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Villago Middle School, 574 E. Lakeside Parkway, Casa Grande

Phoenix
When: Jan. 19, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: TBA

District 26 (Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, Saddlebrook)
When: Jan. 28, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Cross Middle School, 1000 W. Chapala Drive, Tucson

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Not to Celebrate Thanksgiving

“We know that very difficult budget cuts are necessary, yet we still contend that they need to be attached to a comprehensive budget plan that addresses revenue for the state’s future,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jorge Luis Garcia. “Given the incredible amount of pain these cuts cause to children and families, we are appalled to hear how gleeful the Governor was in announcing them.”

Monday, Governor Brewer said, “Since I’ve become Governor, we’ve cut over $1 billion out of the state budget. So, we are going to have a great Thanksgiving.” Brewer goes on to say, “It’s a good day. It’s a good beginning to righting the ship here in Arizona.”

“We go into this Thanksgiving holiday with complete awareness of the seriousness of our state’s situation,” said Garcia. “Everyday, we hear stories of the tens of thousands of people who need assistance from the state because of the financial downturn. Cutting off services to the poor, developmentally disabled and children is not the way to celebrate Thanksgiving.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Statement from Senate Democrats

Today, Senate Republicans voted to pass $300 million in cuts to education and social services and are now rushing to sign the cuts into law as the ink is still drying on the final copies of the bills.

Just a few months ago, Gov. Brewer vowed not to decimate education or services to the state’s most vulnerable. Yet, less than one hour after the end of the Fourth Special Session, Gov. Brewer will break that promise and continue to cement Arizona’s place as the worst state in the country for education funding and children’s services.

Resolving this financial crisis on the backs of children and the poor is not the way to solve our problems. The Republicans continue to refuse to put partisanship aside and work toward a solution that is best for the state. We need to work together to find a comprehensive solution that helps all of Arizona. For over a year now, Democrats have offered a number of complete budgets and revenue options that will solve our fiscal crisis. Yet those solutions continue to fall on deaf, ideologically driven ears.

SB 1001 and SB 1002 passed with only Republican votes and were signed by Gov. Brewer tonight. The bills cut $144 million from K-12 education for textbooks and classroom materials. The bills also cut $155 million from the Department of Economic Services, including services to developmentally disabled children and adults.

We continue to invite our Republican colleagues to negotiate with us a budget solution that benefits all Arizonans.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor Calls Attention to Foster Care Cuts

On Monday, the Arizona Legislature will likely be voting on a $144 million cut to the Department of Economic Services. Already, the department's general fund budget has been cut a total of 31 percent cut over the past 16 months.

Yesterday, Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor held a press conference at the State Capitol alongside several community leaders, including several adults who themselves aged out of the foster care system.

Among the cuts being considered are 1) A 20% reduction for foster families and elimination of monthly allowances for children in the custody of the State and 2) A 10% reduction of stipends to kids aging out of foster care from $795 per month in 2008 to $715 per month in 2009 & 2010.

Sen. Landrum Taylor and Pastor Gary Webb called attention to a new Suitcase Initiative launched for young adults aging out of the system. The suitcases will have information on who to contact in need of emergency, bus tickets, coupons and other information for students to live on their own.

Simultaneously, approximately 100 members of the Foster Care Alumni of America gathered on the House Lawn to have a Thanksgiving lunch. The group cited that only three percent of foster care children graduate from college. Sen. Landrum Taylor stated that we need to do more to help increase that number.

Coverage from yesterday's press conference:

Bill would slash stipend for foster children aging out. 3 TV Coverage: http://bit.ly/LTfoster1120

Proposed cuts to state's foster care program. 12 News Coverage of Sen. Landrum Taylor's Press Conference Friday: http://bit.ly/91HfZb

(Photo: Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez/ Arizona Senate)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor to Hold Press Conference on Foster Care

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor will hold a press conference regarding reductions to foster care programs resulting from cuts to the Department of Economic Services.

Date: November 20, 2009
Time: 10 a.m.
Location: Senate Lawn, Arizona State Capitol, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, Ariz.

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Jorge Luis Garcia and Senator Albert Hale

Once again Governor Brewer and Republican leadership have called the Legislature into a special session to pass a Republican-only budget plan. Republicans continue to refuse to put partisanship aside and negotiate with Democrats, and now they are scrambling at the eleventh hour to find votes for a plan that apparently not even their own members can stomach. If Democrats are to be locked out of budget agreement, then the least Republican leadership could do is guarantee votes from their own members.

We cannot vote for a budget that is highly dependent on cuts and does not take the state’s future into account by creating a comprehensive budget plan. By cutting $144 million from our schools, this plan makes it harder for educators to perform their job by taking money out of the classroom. The $148 million in cuts to the Department of Economic Services amount to a 31 percent reduction from the original 2009 appropriation.

We continue to be willing to work with the Republicans to find a solution to this fiscal crisis. In fact, this plan would be on the governor’s desk right now if Republicans had agreed to provide some relief to school districts on our Native American lands and restore crucial protections for teachers. These simple issues would have zero cost to the state and would have gone very far as a show of good faith to students and teachers statewide. But Republicans would apparently rather do nothing than agree to a single Democratic priority.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bill Summaries

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee posted summaries of the bills to be heard tomorrow. The summaries can be found on JLBC's website.

The list of cuts proposed by Legislative Republicans is also on the JLBC website.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Special Session

We just received word that there will be a three-day special session starting tomorrow at 3 p.m.

In Case You Missed It: Sen. Garcia's Comments in Saturday's AZ Republic

We should lessen dependence on sales tax
Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia - Nov. 14, 2009 12:00 AM
Special for the Republic

For more than a year, Democrats have been calling for tax reform to address the state budget.

We provided a number of complete alternative budgets that would have helped to pull Arizona out of this fiscal crisis while lessening the state's reliance on an unreliable sales tax.

I am thankful to Senate President Bob Burns for taking the courageous leap to support a tax referral to the voters that will help to transition Arizona during this financial downturn and provide a semblance of stability for the immediate future ("Conservative calls for sales-tax hike," My Turn, Nov. 3).


I disagree, however, with President Burns' assertion that Arizona's financial difficulties are the result of overspending - overspending that occurred while Republicans controlled both the House and Senate.

But was it overspending? The previous administration gained a $1.1 billion increase for essential services such as Child Protective Services, prisons, highway-patrol officers, university funding and all-day kindergarten. In return, the Republicans walked away with $800 million in permanent tax cuts that, from an accounting standpoint, amount to additional spending.

Nevertheless, here we are. The state budget is in crisis and the Legislature needs to make many difficult decisions. We need to reduce spending and increase revenue.

The easiest way to increase revenue is also the most difficult for Republicans. And while it is the Legislature's constitutional duty to raise taxes when the circumstances require it, my Republican colleagues do not have the political fortitude to do so. So we punt that political football to the voters and ask them to approve a sales-tax increase.

But we should not ask voters to increase the taxes they pay and then turn around and cut taxes for big business.

Democrats have continuously maintained that we do not support a tax increase on voters that, rather than going to enhance education, will be used to pay for tax cuts.

Gov. Jan Brewer, who has advocated for the tax increase, has flip-flopped a number of times on when she would support decreasing business taxes. She has said she would not support tax cuts for the long term without a comprehensive approach but is reportedly looking at cutting both business property taxes and the capital-gains tax.

One thing seems clear: Gov. Brewer supports raising taxes on Arizonans who are financially struggling in a downturn, but she still wants to cut taxes for businesses.

In the short term, Senate Democrats remain supportive of allowing the voters to decide whether to raise sales taxes that will be used to offset massive cuts to education and services for the poor.

In the long term, however, the Legislature must find the courage to comprehensively review our tax structure and lessen our dependence on our unreliable sales tax.

Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia is the Democratic leader in the Arizona Senate. He can be reached by phone at 602-926-4171 and e-mail at jgarcia@azleg.gov.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sen. Amanda Aguirre Recognized by Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – State Senator Amanda Aguirre (D-24) will be acknowledged by the Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts with a “2009 Arts Hero” Award.

A release by the organization states that this special recognition is presented to members of the Arizona State Legislature who played a key role in supporting the arts and arts education issues during the most recent legislative session.

“Arts are arts education are great contributors to the local economy for both the quality of life and for our economy. Dollars spent in our communities help maintain local jobs, which is especially critical given high levels of unemployment,” said Sen. Amanda Aguirre. “I am honored to be acknowledged by the Arizona Action for the Arts for my support of the arts for a second year.”

Incorporated in 2005, Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts is a non-profit statewide arts advocacy membership organization which promotes public dialogue, public policy and legislation favorable to the arts, ensures and increases state funding for the arts, and serves as a resource for expanding other public arts funding sources.

More information on the Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts can be found on their website: http://www.azcitizensforthearts.org/