Thursday, January 15, 2009

Arizona budget and bills in the 49th legislature

Soon-to-be governor Jan Brewer could have a lot of influence on the budget tone.

PHOENIX -- It got busier this afternoon in the House after Big Red left. At the end of this first week of session members dropped hundreds of bills, to add to the hundreds already filed, and harsh budget cutting options were released from the Republican appropriations chairmen.

I participated in all the 'budget bootcamp' meetings this week, and I thank the chairmen of the appropriations committees and the JLBC staff for the work they’ve done developing these options. The House Dems and I understand how difficult this is and there is no easy solution and appreciate the hard work they have done. But the options for cuts proposed in this budget to education – schools, community colleges and universities – will devastate the educational infrastructure in our state and hurt our state’s long-term economic vitality.

These budget cut options total $1.5 billion out of our state’s education system (K-univ) over the next 1 ½ years – this is not an amount that our state’s education infrastructure can absorb without serious impacts on the quality of our education system and, long-term the economic vitality of our state. This level of deep cuts will significantly hamper this state’s ability to recover from the economic downturn and to have strong and prosperous economic long-turn and it will add to the numbers of the unemployed as teachers are laid off.

The budget cuts are only being presented as options at this point but we strongly urge the appropriations committee chairs and Republican leadership to work with all members and consider other options. We need to move cautiously and really consider the long-term impact – and economic cost – of anything we do now. This budget process must be thoughtful and seriously consider all options.

I am focusing on trying to protect education, health care and other essential needs while trying to help solve Arizona's fiscal problems, therefore I have yet to introduce any of my own bills. I am considering and researching a few possible bills on public safety and economic justice that may have a chance of a fair hearing in the House.

I have taken action and signed on to co-sponsor some other members' bills on energy, animals and wildlife, economics, education, students, banks, payday loans and other topics. The legislative process is complex and can move fast. Some of these bills, though well intended, may play out to be problematic, and I may have to try to amend or vote against a bill I co-sponsored. I will always try to do the right thing, but will make some mistakes. If you live in district 29 or Arizona and have any questions about my positions on bills or the budget, please contact my Capitol office at 602.926.5342 or Tucson office at 520.398.6000. Thank you.

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