The Farley Report from Phoenix #158: 5-1-12

Howdy, Friends O'Farley… 

Lots of news tonight, after this word from our sponsor: Steve Farley for State Senate:

1--> Help us in our final push for nominating signatures! Come to our joint walks with Ron Barber at NEW TIMES: 9am and 4pm on Saturdays, and 4pm on Sundays and Wednesdays. Volunteers will be gathering nominating signatures for Barber for CD2, Carmona for U.S. Senate, and Farley for LD9. Please join us! If you can come, call or email my new campaign manager Alma Hernandez, 520-302-0623 or Alma@FriendsOFarley.com.

2--> Please CONTRIBUTE $25, $50 or even $100 and VOLUNTEER on our website TODAY, and share our website with your friends & colleagues. Every dollar counts in our newly competitive district!

3--> Please SIGN my nominating petition ONLINE by clicking the link on my website.

And now, as promised, the news…

--> Budget: It's all over. With no public hearings, and no public testimony, on largely partisan lines we have passed a budget worked out between the Republican majority and the Governor, without any input from Democrats, just like we saw in each of the past two years.

This is particularly sad since, as Farley Report readers know, this year we House Democrats had crafted a fiscally conservative budget that would also invest in jobs, education, and human services that our citizens need and deserve, and that would pay off dividends many times over down the line in the form of a healthy, stable economy, and fewer citizens in need of government services.

Republicans actually liked our budget, and acknowledged that -- although we invested more on core public services like schools, pothole filling, and job creation -- we still ended up with a much smaller deficit in 2015 than they did. We were in serious negotiations, until they finally decided to fall back on the old ways of spurning Democrats and doing a deal with the governor of their own party.

This is such a missed opportunity. Our state's problems are too big for one party to solve, and this could have been a historic example of putting partisan bickering aside to move our state forward. Together. Especially given that we have a surplus for the first time since 2008. Instead, we fell back -- too easily -- into the old patterns of: A Republican budget filled with tax cuts, education cuts, and private prisons, Democratic amendments that make things better (but fail on party lines), and a final package that goes to the Governor only 24 hours after it was introduced, without public input.

Here are some of the key points of the budget that is now on the Governor's desk, after tonight's final vote:

--> Arizona received $97 million from the federally negotiated settlement with big banks that were caught committing fraud on foreclosed homeowners. This money was supposed to go to programs to help foreclosed Arizona families. Instead, $50 million of that was swept into the General Fund and used to build 500 new private prison beds. Perhaps the thought is that these foreclosed former homeowners will have new beds waiting for them if they now turn to a life of crime!

--> Hospitals, which are already teetering on the edge of bankruptcy due to the costs of uncompensated care for former AHCCCS patients, receive no increases for AHCCCS provider rates, and have received none since 2007. This could pay off in health industry layoffs, closed emergency rooms and higher premiums for all of us. 

--> There are increases in funding for Child Protective Services (CPS) and some developmentally disabled (DD) and behavioral health (BH) programs, but more than 450 jobs within the Department of Economic Security -- including positions at CPS, DD, and BH -- are eliminated. 

--> K-12 education receives just under $100 million in funding increases, but this is a drop in the bucket considering the more than $2 billion in cuts that K-12 has suffered in the last two years. There will be no funding for new schools, textbooks, computers, or lab equipment.

--> There is no funding for Adult Ed and literacy programs. I ran an amendment to restore $5 million to that program -- a very small investment, considering the immense value of helping Arizonans who are currently unable to read or write turn their lives around so that they can become economic generators for our economy. It failed on party lines. 

--> Instead of funding schools and literacy programs, the budget funds 1,500 new private prison beds. Sadly, if you don't build schools and jobs now, you will be building prisons later. Shouldn't we be investing in the training of career entrepreneurs instead of career criminals?

--> Speaking of prisons, the budget also eliminates the requirement that private prison contracts undergo a review of quality and cost effectiveness. Perhaps you recall the private prison near Kingman that a few years ago allowed three convicted murderers to walk away from its compound and go on a week-long killing spree throughout the West? Not such a good idea to eliminate accountability for private prisons.

--> There is no money for KidsCare, although that only costs $7 million a year to restore health care coverage to more than 70,000 kids of the working poor. We remain the ONLY state in the country to not provide this coverage.

--> Indian nations will no longer be able to receive up to 10% of the sales taxes collected on their lands to fund community colleges. This appears to be payback for the Tohono O'Odham Nation's efforts to build a casino on tribal lands in Glendale.

--> There is a provision, hidden among many Budget Reconciliation Bills, that would summarily swipe the Pima County Wastewater Plant, paid for by all Pima County residents, and give it to the Town of Marana without reimbursement to Pima County taxpayers. This would also violate the federal Clean Water Act, and possibly cause the EPA to swoop down upon the State and take it over. There will be more lawsuits that we will lose.

--> There is more money for ASU and NAU, but in the name of a false "funding parity," UofA gets nothing. In fact UofA loses hundreds of jobs from the main campus. 

--> $450 million is hoarded away into a Rainy Day Fund although many would claim that it is currently raining in Arizona on all our citizens who have lost their jobs, their homes, and their health care. This fund is spent down by 2015, still leaving a $160 million deficit that may grow even larger, thanks to a new series of corporate tax giveaways to be determined tomorrow, on what might be the final day of this year's session.

This week's News in Bill (abbreviated due to long budget coverage):

--> Today's budget battles on the floor were tough, but the day ended sweetly. Last Thursday marked one year from the day my mother died. In the second-to-last piece of business on the floor tonight, the bill I introduced to honor her and the millions of other seniors who need long term care, HB2713, cleared final passage unanimously (60-0) and is now on the Governor's desk.  I am so grateful to my colleagues from both parties who helped this bill along its way. 

If you would like to help, please call or email Governor Brewer in the next few days to urge her to sign HB2713 so that we can help middle-class families afford to take good care of our loved ones in need, while at the same time saving the state money it would otherwise have to spend on the ALTCS program. You might also remind her that part of the bill allows families to set up Health Savings Accounts, an idea that has broad Republican support. You can call her at 1-800-253-0883, or comment online at: 

http://www.azgovernor.gov/Contact.asp 

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Representative. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Paid for by Friends O'Farley