Thursday, March 12, 2009

Emergency AZ budget 'fix' could've been avoided

Rep. Patterson helping Tucson kids.

PHOENIX -- Emergency legislation to backfill deep cuts that would have left thousands of families without child care by Friday could be avoided by accounting for federal stimulus dollars in the 2009 budget, House Democrats have said since January.

While thousands of families were deciding whether to quit their jobs or leave their children home alone, House Democrats shook their heads after having told Republican colleagues in January that the original deep cuts to the 2009 budget were unnecessary and federal stimulus dollars were days away.

“Republicans’ drastic and draconian cuts to education maximize the harm caused to students, children, middle-class families and our state’s economic future,”
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said in a House Democrats press release on Jan. 29. “And the most important part: these cuts are completely unnecessary.”

Only days remained for the federal stimulus package to become available to Arizona during the 2009 budget fix in late January. House Democrats also offered amendments in the early morning hours of the budget debate on Jan. 30 to include federal stimulus funding in the budget package, but House Republicans voted it down.

“This emergency budget revision and wave of panic that thousands of Arizona families had to endure could have been avoided by working in a bipartisan way and adopting one of the original Democratic options in the 2009 budget fix back in January,” said Rep. David Lujan, House Democratic Leader. “We warned Republicans of this in their original budget cuts that they rushed to the floor in the middle of the night. Now they are playing ‘erase and correct’ on this shameful error.”

House Democrats also offered alternative and responsible budget solutions to the 2009 shortfall, alternatives that would have protected the state’s middle-class families and education system. The proposal accounted for the federal stimulus dollars Republicans used to right their wrong today. It was hailed as common sense, prudent and practical.

But Republicans chose to ignore Democrats’ proposal in favor of making deep unnecessary cuts that gravely affected child care, child abuse cases, health care and education.

“I hate to say it, but we told them so,” said Rep. Chad Campbell, House Democratic Whip. “It’s unfortunate that so many programs were cut and so many people had to make life-changing decisions when all of that could have been avoided."

"I was glad to vote today to help restore support for some at-risk children.
I'm also glad I was part of offering a smarter solution in January, which should've been followed. Under our fair plan, the cuts we backfilled today would not have happened in the first place," said Rep. Daniel Patterson of Tucson's district 29. "All of this harmful budget chaos would not be happening if more Republicans would 'walk the talk' and work with Democrats."

Without the key votes of House Democrats today, the bill would have failed and funding would not have been restored.

- adapted from House Dems PIO

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