Thursday, December 18, 2008

AZ House Dems protect families and quality of life

Tucson fourth-grader Josh Zaragoza (left), gets support from his mother, Teri Zaragoza, and brother Cody, on the first day of this school year.

TUCSON -- I had the experience of a lifetime this fall.

Not only was I elected to serve the people of Tucson’s south and southeast sides as a State Representative, but I also took my 6-year-old daughter to her first day of first grade.

Just like other parents, I’ll never forget seeing my daughter enter the “big-kid world,” as she called it, and she couldn’t wait to start learning.

But my daughter’s school, part of the Tucson Unified School District, faces major budget trouble like many other Arizona schools. This year, her principal must try to serve two schools.

Our kids deserve better.

I have the opportunity at the State Capitol to help her, and other families and their children, whose educational future hangs in the balance of cuts from this year’s budget. We face potential cuts in all-day kindergarten and our state universities, when our state remains at the bottom in the nation when it comes to student-teacher ratios and funding. It’s common sense: better education means stronger businesses and jobs in Arizona, boosting our economy. When the greatest untapped resource we have is the minds of our children, we simply can’t afford more cuts to education.

The Arizona legislature has to work together to tackle the difficult task of balancing the budget. House Speaker-elect Adams said he plans to work in a bipartisan way to solve the deficit we face, and I’m looking forward to making sure that he fulfills that pledge. Budget negotiations should be an open process and I look forward to bringing Tucson’s concerns to the table.

I recognize the hard choices we face here in Arizona, and while we must deal with the immediate budget crisis, we need to work on economic stimulus packages so we can help get out of this recession fast and strong.

These are tough times, but I will continue to put the interests of children and working people first. We need to continue to preserve vital investments in Arizona’s future instead of cuts that will hold us back. That includes no budget cuts for educating our kids, keeping them safe and having a stronger economy.

We are fortunate that the Solon solar plant in district 29 opened this year, and I was pleased to attend the opening. This solar company will create hundreds of clean jobs for our economy when we need them the most. In times of massive layoffs, this is a blessing for our community. Not only does it directly benefit people in Pima County by giving a boost to our economy, but the plant is helping power America with clean, renewable energy that will move us toward energy independence.

Those are the right kinds of priorities to protect as we work to put the interests of our children and middle-class families first. I also want to protect education, health care and high-tech jobs to boost our economy for all people.

In budget negotiations, we have to defend our necessities and use precise cuts, not a blunt axe to trim our budget into workable form that will allow us to eliminate the deficit.

Fortunately, in the House Democrats, we have reasonable, hard-working representatives who want to work in a bipartisan manner for economic justice to make sure working people and kids are protected in tough times.

As my daughter begins an educational journey that will shape her future, I want to make sure, as many other parents do, that she has a good future right here in Arizona, and I’ll work hard to make sure that she and every other Arizona child gets it.

Tucson Citizen: Education, economic stimulus should be priorities

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