PHOENIX -- House Democrats today are calling on Republican leaders to release details of a budget proposal Republicans now say is completed but refuse to reveal to the public. Republican leaders have kept their budget plans hidden for months in meetings behind closed doors, shutting out Democrats and other Republicans alike.
The clandestine group has delayed the budget process and legislative session almost to May and leaves the state with only 40 legislative days left to solve the fiscal crisis. While legislators waited, taxpayers shelled out more than $10,000 a day in the first 100 days to pay lawmakers’ salaries and per diem, not counting staff and operating costs.
“We’re costing taxpayers $10,000 a day and they deserve to see some results for this major expense,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “The public deserves to know the details of a budget that likely will negatively affect middle-class families and their children and be a part of this process. Now this group says they have a completed plan, but won’t share it with the public?”
The state faces a $3 billion budget deficit in the coming year and the only budget document the public has seen from Republican leaders or the governor was a Republican Appropriations’ Committee Chairmen’s budget leaked to members of the media.
"It's time for majority leadership to 'walk the talk' on open government," said Rep. Daniel Patterson (D-Tucson-LD29) "Arizonans are in an economic crisis and it's 100 degrees in Phoenix on the 100th day of the session, with unacceptably still no real budget details or debate from leadership."
That document threatened nearly $1.2 billion in cuts and fund sweeps to health care, critical services for children and seniors and the heaviest cuts to K-12 and university education. Schools were forced to lay off thousands of teachers earlier this month based on the leaked document — it was the only figure available by the majority leadership or the governor.
“We and our Republican colleagues had great expectations for transparency and openness to the public for the budget process this session,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “But the budget process has been even more secretive than years past and unfortunately middle-class families will bear the brunt of it.”
House Democrats released the state’s only detailed comprehensive budget solution in March. The plan utilizes every federal stimulus dollar available to Arizona, makes strategic cuts, reduces government waste, closes tax loopholes and restores funding necessary for middle-class families.
Now that Republican leaders have made it clear that they have reached a complete budget proposal nearly a month later, House Democrats are asking that they give the details.
“Arizona has braced itself for months to hear how this budget is going to affect middle-class families, jobs and education,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Let’s see it.”