This year’s budget, which was rammed through the legislative process in just over 48 hours, trades short-sighted cuts for long-term damage to our state. The harm done to rural Arizona will be especially acute.
My LD 8 seatmates in the House initially sided with me to oppose the budget, but traded their votes for protecting Pinal Community College’s budget from elimination. While I am grateful that funding to our community college was restored, the overall net result of the budget is hardly a good deal for the people of Pinal County.
Left on the cutting board was vital funding for public education. Our state universities will see a $99 million cut (fully 14% of their classroom funding), and our public schools will get a new $113.5 million reduction to their fund for classroom materials and supplies and capital dollars. This new cut is on top of reductions already in place to district additional assistance and will leave our schools financially struggling to retain quality teachers. In addition, the education funding lawsuit remains unresolved despite the fact that Arizona’s Legislature has been ordered to increase funding to our K-12 schools. This budget also phases out funding to the Casa Verde High School STEM Academy and eliminates all the additional aid they receive for this program by fiscal year 2017.
The Department of Child Safety will see a $10 million reduction despite 16,900 kids currently in state care, and the backlog of cases is rising, not falling.
Even more damaging to Arizona’s rural communities is the 5% provider rate reduction for Medicaid. Coupled with the loss of federal matching dollars, that cut adds up to more than half a billion dollars that will disappear from our state’s economy. This will put the many rural clinics and hospitals at risk of closing, in areas where there are often no alternatives.
In their blind quest for “fiscal responsibility,” the crafters of this budget decided to shirk as much burden on to counties and towns as possible. Counties must now house all juvenile inmates in their own facilities and we also have to pay the state more than $10 million for collecting our own taxes. Does that sound fiscally responsible to you?
A common thread throughout all of their budget cuts was targeting programs that help Arizona’s young, our rural areas and our needy. With cuts to counties, schools, health care and programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, we can see who our state’s leaders do not consider to be a priority.
Many legislators sold their votes for small things here and there. In doing so, they endorsed a short-sighted budget that will detrimentally affect Arizona for years to come.
I stood with the families of my district and refused to sell out their future in exchange for a few silver coins in the budget. I’ve got your back, and no one can convince me to back down.