Howdy, Friends O'Farley,
This year's budget drama is taking shape as I write this, and the picture is not a pretty one.
You'll recall the Governor's disastrous budget proposal from January with these features:
--> Elimination of healthcare and housing for 5,200 seriously mentally ill people.
--> A quarter-billion dollar cut to our universities and community colleges, also endangering UMC and our trauma center.
-->No new revenue sources: just more gimmicks and borrowing, including holding back another $240 million from K-12 public schools on top of outright cuts of $170 million from K-12.
--> Tossing 280,000 childless adults in poverty off their healthcare in violation of voter-approved propositions, and causing the loss of 48,000 private-sector healthcare jobs while endangering our hospitals and emergency rooms.
--> No funding to pay for lifesaving surgery for transplant patients, even though all they need is $1.2 million a year.
That is going to cause a great deal of hurt for all of us. But compared to the legislative budget taking shape, it seems almost moderate.
It's not moderate, no question -- so don't mistake that statement for support. In fact. I believe that the reason for the extremist nature of the Senate-led legislative budget is to triangulate against the Governor's budget so that people think it doesn't look that bad after all. We will not take the bait.
13 budget bills were just introduced in the Senate and will be heard in their Appropriations Committee tomorrow. We don't yet have all the details, but here is what we know so far about how much havoc the starve-the-beast folks in the Senate are looking to wreak upon our state by June 2012. Happy Centennial, Arizona!
--> Nearly $1.3 billion in cuts, including nearly $750 million to K-12 public education, $310 million to universities and community colleges, $70 million more from health and human services, child protective services, and elder protective services, and $40 million more spread out across all state departments.
--> Like the Governor, 280,000 people kicked off healthcare, including 5,200 seriously mentally ill.
--> Cash-poor counties will have to come up with $150,000,000 more to pay back to the general fund, and hundreds more millions in state shared revenues will be taken from our struggling cities -- both these move will endanger local police and fire protection.
I remember Governor Brewer promised all of us if we passed her sales tax, increasing taxes on middle class families, she would prevent future cuts to education, public safety, health, and human services. Where's that promise now?
Yesterday, the House majority passed a Flat Tax bill on third read (HB2636), with only Republicans in favor, in spite of the lack of any official fiscal analysis of how much the bill would cost and who would pay it. It would eliminate the tax breaks that have helped to build a strong middle class in our country, such as the home mortgage interest deduction.
The supporters of the bill claimed that it would be "revenue neutral" and that it is more "fair" to make people making $10,000 a year pay the same percentage as those making $2 million a year, although $1000 means a lot more to a family earning $20,000 than $100,000 means to a family earning $2,000,000. Their flat tax would theoretically involve huge actual tax reductions for the rich, and massive increases for the poor and middle class.
The real-life application turns out to work quite differently--Everyone pays more! There was one piece of fiscal analysis provided by an independent but reliable source -- Walter Dudley, the accountant who leads the Arizona Society of CPAs. Mr. Dudley watches tax bills carefully and has often helped us Ways & Means committee members figure out real-world impacts of policy moves.
When the flat tax was heard in committee, he delivered us a spreadsheet in which he calculated the taxes currently due on six different Arizona households with adjusted gross annual incomes ranging from $17,784 a year to $248,456 a year. These were actual case studies. He compared the current taxes with the taxes owed under HB2636 and discovered that every one of these families would have to pay much more in state taxes. Middle-class families would pay an extra $1,000-$1,500 a year.
I pointed this out on the floor, but the evidence fell on deaf ears. I argued that now was not the time to raise taxes on middle-class families. We are struggling with foreclosures, unemployment, and an economy that is still trying to turn around.
This budget and the flat tax bill are two more salvos in what is turning out to be massive attack on middle-class Arizona families. Dismantling our public school system, forcing huge tuition increases at universities and community colleges, and jacking up taxes will put our citizens on the ropes at the worst possible time.
The onslaught looks to continue. Today, Senate Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard resigned his leadership position, and the caucus elected Andy Biggs to take his place. Senator Biggs is also the Senate Appropriations chair, and the architect of the budget described above. He is intelligent and articulate, but his libertarian philosophy will fit in well with Senate President Pearce's agenda, and does not bode well for any hope of budgetary mercy.
I fully expect Senators Biggs and Pearce to attempt to rush through the budget bills like the corporate bailout bill from last month, so that no one has the time to examine the flaws too carefully. We House Democrats will do all we can to slow things down and make sure that the public has the time to study this plan and understand its full implications.
And once they push this through -- or something between the Governor's budget and this one -- we will be making sure that every Arizona voter knows how we will hurt, and who voted to do the hurting.
I'll send you more details next week, but in the meantime, let's all come together as a community to do some good things in Southern Arizona.
As I told you last week, THIS Saturday, March 19, the Red Cross will lead the Gabrielle Giffords Honorary Save-a-Life Saturday at more than 100 locations across the country. The Tucson locations are below:
TUCSON - CENTRAL at 9:00, 11:00 and 1:00
Doubletree Hotel Tucson at Reid Park, Ballroom, 445 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85711
TUCSON - NORTHWEST at 9:00 and 11:00
YMCA - Northwest Tucson, 7770 N. Shannon Rd., Tucson, AZ 85741
GREEN VALLEY at 9:00 and 11:00
Desert Hills Recreation Center, 2980 South Camino Del Sol, Green Valley, AZ 85622-8200
NOGALES at 9:00 and 11:00
Southeast Arizona Area Health Education Center (SEAAHEC), 1171 W. Target Range Rd., Nogales, AZ 85621
SIERRA VISTA AT 9:00 AND 11:00
SACA Home Show at Buena High School, 5225 E. Buena School Blvd., Sierra Vista, AZ 85635
DOUGLAS at 9:00 and 11:00
Douglas High School , 1500 15th. St., Douglas, AZ 85607
The free CPR and first-aid training will last 45-60 minutes, and will include instruction in hands-only CPR, controlling external bleeding and managing shock.
You are strongly encouraged to attend one of these FREE classes and learn how to administer CPR in case of an emergency. Families are welcome. If you would like to attend one of these sessions, you can RSVP online at http://www.redcrossarizona.org/site/PageServer?pagename=appeal_giffords_savealife
If you live outside of Southern Arizona, you can find your local training location at this national website: http://www.redcross.org/savealife
I will be attending the 1pm session at the Doubletree with my family if you would like to join me.
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Representative.
Arizona State Representative, District 28
Assistant Minority Leader
Ranking Member, Transportation Committee
Ways & Means Committee
Capitol office: 602-926-3022
Tucson office: 520-398-6000
Official email: sfarley at azleg.gov
Paid for by Friends O' Farley