Education and other essential services are suffering as Republicans cannot pass a fair budget, and refuse to work with Democrats.
PHOENIX – Republican lawmakers and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer once again failed to enact a budget Friday, leaving the state under economic distress and vital services at risk.
“How much longer will it take for Gov. Brewer and Republican lawmakers to realize it will take real, bipartisan budget negotiations to solve our state’s economic crisis?” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Like all Arizonans, Democrats are just as frustrated with the total lack of leadership on the state budget. It is absurd that the governor and the legislature now has had eight months to pass a bipartisan budget and still can’t get the job done. This kind of behavior is unacceptable.”
Democratic lawmakers have urged for bipartisan budget talks for eight months to solve the state's economic crisis, but Brewer failed to lead and refused to call all five parties — Brewer, House and Senate Democrats and Republicans — to the table to negotiate a bipartisan budget, until two months into the fiscal year, after a budget had already passed and just days before Brewer is required to take action.
"The continued lack of leadership from Governor Brewer and legislative Republicans is stunning, increasingly damaging and totally unacceptable," said Rep. Daniel Patterson of Tucson. "I am very frustrated as are the people of Arizona that we still don't have a fair budget. I and other Democrats will continue to work for a fiscally responsible balanced budget solution that protects middle-class families."
During the first meeting on Aug. 21, Brewer insisted on Democratic votes on Brewer’s sales tax referral after being unable to gain the votes of members of her own — the majority party in the legislature. Democrats have concerns about the impact of the full budget, which digs Arizona into an even deeper fiscal hole and lacks long-term stability and about the sales tax hike which does not directly fund education and vital services.
Democrats agreed to work in every capacity to meet her last-minute demands to show her where to make changes in the budget to create a bipartisan solution. They were happy to discuss the revenue issue in the context of the larger budget package, but Gov. Brewer refused to take even one small step during the talks to work with Democrats to protect education and middle-class families in Arizona.
Democrats asked for modest budget changes that:
-- Restore $295 million in cuts made in the Republican budget, including restoring $140 million in K-12 funding. The current Republican budget makes $915 million in cuts and sweeps, including cuts of $220 million from K-12 education on top of the $133 million in cuts schools received in January and the $300 million in sweeps of unspent cash balances taken from school districts in May.
-- Do not give away $250 million from the state’s education equalization tax and direct $75 million from the vehicle license tax to go to the general fund. The $325 million in revenue created by these changes pays for the restorations Democrats requested and leaves a sizable balance carry forward to help balance next year’s budget.
-- Detail some changes, such as a refundable low-income tax credit, to the one-cent sales tax referral language to protect families and ensure the new tax revenue goes to education and health programs. Democratic leadership told the Governor they would agree to support the sales tax referral in the context of changes to the larger budget package, although they preferred other revenue options.
-- Ask that some of the most controversial budget provisions be taken out, such as the privatization of death row, the preempting of local control of cities and the removal of protections and notice requirements for teachers subject to layoffs created by budget deficits.
“The choices during these negotiations were tax breaks for big corporations or essential funding for education and vital social services,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “They cost the same amount of money. Democrats chose funding education. And based on her line-item vetoes to education cuts today, it sounds to us like our interest were the same as hers. We are confused as to why the governor is choosing to blame Democrats.”
But Brewer and Republicans refused to budge and take off their partisan blinders, then Brewer chose to line-item veto cuts and the equalization bill anyway.
“Democrats did everything we could to work with Gov. Brewer on the budget, making our own sacrifices and going above and beyond our cut level,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “But she refused to make the slightest concession to address core Arizona values like funding education and protecting middle-class families and children. Now we are two months past deadline and still no budget.”
Democrats detailed the shortfalls of the Republican budget and why it is necessary to come together for a bipartisan solution.
“We must work toward a real, bipartisan solution. There is an obvious path to a responsible and comprehensive budget solution, and as always, Democrats stand ready to walk down that bipartisan path for a stronger Arizona,” said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios.
- adapted from House Dems PIO