Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stimulus OKed, GOP still opts to gut education

Kids learning science at Borton Elementary in Tucson. Children and schools would suffer under the GOP budget.

PHOENIX -- A $1 billion federal stimulus check, specifically made out to aid education in the budget shortfall, is in the mail to Arizona, but Republican lawmakers have decided to slash and burn education anyway.

Republicans’ proposal will be heard today in Appropriations Committee at 1:45 p.m. in House Hearing Room 1.

Arizona’s U.S. Congressional delegation voted to pass the federal stimulus package Wednesday specifically to ease deep cuts in their home state’s budget deficit.

State Republican lawmakers met in secret Wednesday and introduced budget bills in the middle of the night to unnecessarily rush a budget through a false deadline they have created for themselves.

“Republicans have declared war on our education system for no reason,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “There are no excuses anymore. The check is in the mail. Why would Republican lawmakers still blatantly want to assault Arizona’s students, parents, teachers, children and middle-class families by making drastic and unnecessary cuts to education?”

Although the $1 billion in federal funds is guaranteed to ease the need for deep cuts to Arizona education in about two weeks, the new Republican proposal opted for deeper cuts to K-12 education than originally proposed – $133 million. They also are choosing to unnecessarily hit universities with a $142 million cut, and the state's health-care system with a $44 million cut.

House Democrats have offered alternative and responsible budget solutions to the 2009 shortfall, alternatives that protect our state’s education system and middle-class families. This proposal has been hailed as common sense, prudent and practical. Republicans chose to ignore Democrats’ proposal in favor of making deep unnecessary cuts.

“Republicans are choosing to decimate and eliminate education rather than utilizing federal stimulus money passed by our own Congressional delegation,” said Democratic Leader David Lujan. “If we want to witness firsthand our state buckle underneath itself, then this is the budget proposal to make that happen.”

To slash and burn education, Republican lawmakers have concealed their budget changes and options in secret meetings this week, out of public view.

That’s not what Speaker Kirk Adams originally pledged to the public: “…Adams has vowed that the state budget will be crafted in the open, not behind closed doors,” according to The Arizona Republic on Jan. 18. “He and Burns, the Senate president, are of like minds when it comes to running the Legislature, from making the budget process more transparent to turning an attentive ear to the needs of the business community.”

“On the whole, we're on the same track,”
Adams said of Burns’ pledge of transparency, in the story.

“The public deserves to know what is going on behind closed doors in budget negotiations because these decisions will directly affect their every day lives,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “We face a financial emergency with our universities and K-12 education, our future business and economic vitality. Arizona’s children and middle class families stand to carry the heaviest of burdens. The people of Arizona should be able to see this process and be a part of it.”

House and Senate Democrats held their first of five public budget hearings Monday night in Casa Grande to hear ideas and input from the public, who will be affected the most by these budget cuts. The next hearing is in Phoenix tonight, 6:30-8:30pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 1124 N 3rd St.

“Fair, common sense solutions are available to balance the budget that protect education, kids and families in Arizona,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson of Tucson. “The people of Arizona should know that responsible solutions exist and House Democrats are advocating for them. Republicans’ rushed draconian cuts to education will badly harm students, children, families and our state’s economic future, and these cuts are completely unnecessary.”

RELATED: AZ Republic's Robert Robb, House Dem budget responsible.

- adapted from House Dems PIO


Jeneiene Schaffer, Campaign Coordinator said...

This is a complete and utter outrage. AZ House Republicans be warned: politically engaged and aware parents and teaches have you on watch. You slash and burn our childrens' future at your own peril come 2010. Thank you house dems for putting up the good fight. We're counting on you to prevail!

Zelph said...

And to any Dems who give the Republicans bipartisan cover for these outrages, be aware that we are watching and will hold you to account. Choose carefully.