Tuesday, May 05, 2009

GOP rejects fair options, OKs $700M education cut

Rep. Rick Murphy and AZ GOP continue to vote against education.

PHOENIX -- Republican lawmakers who have said education is their priority voted Tuesday for budget bills that cut another $700 million from K-12 and higher education, nearly three times the education cuts they made earlier this year.

Republican Reps. Vic Williams, Rich Crandall and Russ Jones all voted in House Appropriations to make even deeper cuts to education in Arizona after rejecting common-sense amendments to protect it.

Republican Reps. John Kavanagh, Andy Biggs, Nancy McLain, Rick Murphy and Steve Court also all voted to gut education.

“Instead of taking a stand against these deep and harmful cuts to education, these lawmakers chose to cut even more from our state’s future economy,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema, ranking Democratic Appropriations member. “When the future of Arizona’s children is at stake, now is not the time for partisan politics. It’s time for common-sense and responsible bipartisan decisions to create a stronger Arizona.”

The budget bills Republican lawmakers introduced include:

-- $700 million in cuts to education, including a $588 million cut to K-12 and a $111 million cut to universities after application of stimulus funding. The $588 million cut to K-12 includes a potential of more than $250 million of fund balances schools use for necessary maintenance and operation, capital outlay and soft capital like textbooks, technology and school buses.
-- A hidden tax increase after a $293 million raid on citizen-paid funding for cities, towns and counties. These funds are intended to pay for communities’ infrastructure needs such as street lights, roads and sewers. Cities and towns would be forced to fill these holes by increasing taxes for residents or increasing impact fees on businesses to pay for the missing infrastructure funding.

House Democrats offered 11 common-sense amendments to counter the proposed deep cuts to education, cities, towns and counties, 10 of which Republican lawmakers rejected in favor of the deep cuts.

House Democratic amendments included:

-- Restoring jobs to the Department of Revenue to seize $150 million in uncollected taxes to the state. The $150 million is unable to be collected because Republican lawmakers cut the department’s budget in 2009, forcing layoffs. Sinema
-- Using a $3 million House slush fund for the Commission on African American Affairs, the Commission on Indian Affairs and the Summer Youth Employment Program within the Department of Economic Security. Republican lawmakers refuse to use our own House slush fund. Rep. Cloves Campbell, D-Phoenix
-- Restoring $13 million to fund services to the developmentally disabled. Sinema
-- Eliminating a raid of $293 million from cities, towns and counties. As drafted, Republicans’ budget bills require Maricopa County to transfer $66 million, Pima County to transfer $17 million and cities to transfer $210 million to the state. Rep. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson
-- Eliminating a raid of $250 million on balances schools use for necessary maintenance and operation, capital outlay and soft capital like textbooks, technology and school buses. Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe

“The budget cuts to education that my colleagues want to make are devastating,” said Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe (District 17). “We have so many other common-sense, feasible options just laying out there on the table. To choose to deeply cut education again, I think today we saw everyone’s true colors.”

- adapted from House Dems PIO.

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