PHOENIX -- Read here my new column as published today in the capitol media.
Arizona Guardian -- Sep 23 09
Budget? What budget? GOP plan still doesn't cut it (subscription)
by Rep. Daniel Patterson
Soon it will be three months since the state’s budget deadline has passed and Arizona still doesn’t have a budget or much of an economy. Some of us have been trying all year to help, but unfortunately, Arizona families probably won’t see this problem resolved soon.
Republican lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer still are at a standoff with each other and refuse to work in a bipartisan way to finally seal the deal. For eight months, Democrats asked Brewer multiple times to be included in crafting a bipartisan budget, but she and Republicans refused.
In an attempt to reach a bipartisan compromise after Brewer called bipartisan talks at the eleventh hour, Democratic leadership offered significant tough compromises, which can be found at strongerarizona.com.
But Brewer and majority Republicans refused to take even one step toward bipartisanship. Arizonans just wanted a full budget so our state's economy could begin the road to recovery, but it's the end of summer, and Brewer and Republicans still didn't get the job done.
The legislature has one specific constitutional duty — to pass a budget — and this year, the GOP-run legislature has failed. This lack of leadership at the helm is frustrating and disappointing, and it only drives Arizona’s troubled economy into a deeper hole.
Instead of helping to create more jobs, the state is laying off hard-working people trying to support middle-class families. Instead of jump-starting economic recovery, Arizona has taken a u-turn into further debt. Instead of investing in education, Arizona is now ranked last nationwide in education funding. Instead of working with Democrats, Brewer and Republicans unwisely decided to go it alone and failed. The entire state is suffering due the inability of Republicans, who control the legislature and governor's office, to agree and finish a balanced budget.
We are at greater economic risk with no budget in place and it is irresponsible to let this continue to drag on. Some state agencies will be in danger of losing their funding by October; we can’t be sure which ones yet.
People are already suffering from some of the cuts. Brewer chose to sign a Republican budget that eliminates KidsCare Parents, or health care for 10,000 Arizona parents. Brewer also chose to sign a budget that eliminates domestic partner benefits for state employees, which will eliminate these benefits for about 800 families.
The current budget also preempts local control of cities and removes protections and notice requirements for teachers subject to layoffs created by budget deficits.
All of this Republicans passed and Brewer signed when Arizonans need these services the most – in tough economic times. With her vetoes and lack of a long-term, stable revenue plan, Brewer also left the state $1 billion out of balance. The Republicans’ budget relies heavily on “iffy” maneuvers like selling state buildings and privatizing prisons.
The “funny” money is not guaranteed to come close to solving the state deficit. Brewer signed some of the bad budget bills, but even that and the plan she was willing to support both leave a long-term deficit.
The problem still is not solved; therefore, the deficit still remains. Amazingly, there is still time to work on a bipartisan budget for a stronger Arizona. As an independently minded, fiscally responsible Democratic state representative, I remain ready and willing to do the hard work to balance Arizona's budget in a fair way for Arizona families.
Republican lawmakers’ and Brewer’s eight-month delay without a balanced budget in place is a reckless new precedent for Arizona. It is a guaranteed economic mess for the future, but it’s better late than never to correct the problem.
For more information on a comprehensive, more responsible budget solution, please visit strongerarizona.com.
Rep. Daniel Patterson of Tucson is a Democrat representing District 29.