Monday, December 21, 2009

Brewer’s ‘emergency’ meeting too little, too late

Republicans & Brewer have failed Arizona.

by Matt Bunk, Arizona Capitol Times

PHOENIX -- People who watched television news this weekend might be confused into thinking that Monday’s “emergency” meeting of Governor’s Office policy advisers is significant – as if some sort of budget solution will emerge now that the governor has gotten serious.

Those of us who spend more time at the Capitol know it’s a publicity stunt. It’s the kind of PR move initiated by people who know more about lobbying and campaigning than they do about actually communicating with the public and the media.

Read the entire column...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rs unwise cuts close AZ State Parks, lose US funds

Officials say the Brewer/GOP cuts will close all Arizona State Parks in 2010, including Catalina in Tucson.

PHOENIX -- As yet another tumultuous budget special session drew to a close Saturday, House Democrats voted unanimously to oppose a hastily crafted bill of Republican budget cuts that will close Arizona’s State Parks, disqualify the state’s AHCCCS health care program from receiving $20 million in federal matching dollars and further hamper efforts by the state Department of Revenue to collect revenues owed by tax cheats.

“Arizona is facing its worst budget crisis in decades and there is no leadership from the Governor or Republican lawmakers in moving toward a real solution to our state deficit,” said House Democratic Leader Rep. David Lujan (D-Phoenix). “Forty years of failed leadership and bad policy from a Republican-led state legislature has gotten us in this situation and there are no more excuses.”

“We are frustrated by the wrong direction Brewer and the Republicans have taken Arizona and this failed budget process,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson (Tucson-LD29). “It doesn't have to be this way. People want a fair solution that minimizes trying to balance the budget on the backs of kids and services that middle-class families want the state to provide, like quality schools, public saftey and state parks.”

“Today’s legislation, yet again, is full of short-sighted cuts that will cost the state money long-term, not save dollars,” said Democratic Whip Rep. Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix). “State Parks are an economic engine for tourism in this state, generating over $250 million a year. They are worth the $8.5 million investment. Closing state parks is not a solution to the budget crisis.”

“Budget cuts to the Department of Revenue have already resulted in lay-offs of 300 staff and the loss of $220 million in collections and another potential $300 million from tax cheats who owe money and just haven’t paid. The additional cuts in this bill just ties the hands of this agency even more,” said Rep. David Schapira (D-Tempe).

Democrats pointed out that the $193 million package of piece meal cuts and fund sweeps were haphazard and Republicans admitted the fund sweep totals would need to be revised due to old budget information being used to quickly create the budget cut proposal.

“House Democrats want to close loopholes for big corporations and the rich, so they pay their fair share for education, health care, and public safety,” said Rep. Steve Farley (D-Tucson).

“It’s crazy that country club memberships and spa treatments aren’t subject to the sales tax and the Republicans’ plan is to close state parks. And the Republicans want to expand the School Tuition Organization (STO) credit when that program is rife with fraud and abuse and favors the rich,” Campbell said in reference to a recent recommendation by a House study committee to expand the STO credit, which drains $100 million from the state general fund annually. “Governor Brewer and the Republicans are taking Arizona down the wrong track. They have failed our state,” Campbell said.

The budget cut bill passed today will also likely result in salary cuts for state employees who are already struggling to meet the service needs of Arizona’s residents. The budget bill passed today also further cuts the Department of Economic Services (DES) programs. That agency alone has weathered a 35% cut in its state general fund in the past year.

“We are going to look at everything Republicans offer up and continue to ask one question: do they help protect the interest of the middle class or do they cater to special interests and hurt the middle class?” Lujan said. “We will not support the failed ideas that have resulted from forty years of failed leadership from the Republicans in the State Legislature. We will not support a proposal that balances the budget on the backs of the middle class."

- adapted from KVH, AZ House Dems

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 getting even more 'special' at AZ Capitol

Some dark days for Arizona.

Sat Dec 19, Fri Dec 18 & Thu Dec 17: Special Session updates @RepPatterson on twitter.

PHOENIX -- The Guv is set to call us back to the Capitol at 9am Thursday morning.

After another year of failures, the Republican Guv and legislative majority bosses will try to rush at least 3 bad budget 'non-solutions':

-- An unwise and flawed sales tax increase.

-- Tampering with voter approved protections.

-- More giant cuts to needed public services.

Brewer, Adams & Burns have Arizona lost on the wrong track. I predict the House Democratic Caucus will not join them or go along quietly.

This will be the 5th special session of the legislature in 2009. I'll keep up the fight for the people and middle-class families of Tucson's LD29 and Arizona, as I have been all year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wanted: Good housing in Phoenix; Mine safety

Arizona Capitol, west downtown PHX.

Update, Dec 17: I found a good place. Thanks.

PHOENIX -- I'm looking for a decent house, condo, apartment or room to rent somewhere near downtown and the capitol for Jan-June 2010. Furnished a plus.

The upcoming regular legislative session starts Jan 11. Please let me know if you can help. Thanks.

As pro-labor State Representative & advocate, I'm in the Arizona Republic today on mine safety: Penalties vs. mines are often reduced.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Grand Canyon change; Grijalva Fiesta & Toy Drive

More floods will help Arizona's Grand Canyon.

TUCSON -- Some change and progress on the Colorado River today as Obama's Interior Dept. announced a plan to allow for more high flows from Glen Canyon Dam, to help restore riparian areas and beaches in the Grand Canyon. We'll be keeping an eye on this.

Join us this Friday night with US Rep. Raul Grijalva at his Holiday Fiesta and Toy Drive, 8p-12a at the El Casino Ballroom, 437 E 26th St. Bring a toy and/or can of food.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mining problems harm America from east to west

Giant Morenci open pit mine seen from space, Clifton AZ.

TUCSON -- In the west, EPA announced today a 6.6 million pound increase in toxic pollution in Arizona to 95 million pounds of toxic emissions in 2008. Mining is the biggest source of toxins contaminating Arizona's water and air, including 2.4 million pounds last year from the huge mines near Green Valley.

Also today from PEER on mining problems in the east: One of the worst mining disasters in American history resulted in a paltry $5,500 fine and could recur on hundreds of similarly vulnerable sites across the country. Yet a newly released Labor Department Inspector General report on the nation’s largest coal slurry spill answers few questions while providing backhanded support for a whistleblower’s charges that the Bush administration hamstrung the official investigation and subsequent enforcement, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

What many have called the biggest environmental catastrophe in the southeastern U.S. took place on October 11, 2000 when a huge coal slurry impoundment atop an underground mine broke through to the shafts below and punched out the side of the mountain. More than 300 million gallons of toxic waste (a release larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill) poisoned 100 miles of waterways killing all marine life and most of the wildlife in Martin County, Kentucky.

Read the full news release and view documents. Follow RepPatterson on twitter.

- adapted from PEER.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sierrita Mtns.; AZ Leg. Forum Dec 7 in Tucson 29

Sierrita Mtns., a lower Sky Island range in SoAZ.

TUCSON -- I've been very busy with State Rep. duties, work, family and hunt, so have been away some. Please read some of my recent quick updates and links from the Arizona Legislature and PEER on twitter.

Please visit our Legislative Advocacy Forum on Monday Dec 7 with me and other lawmakers and experts; 6:30-8p at the Eckstrom-Columbus branch library, 4350 E. 22nd St., Tucson, in my LD29.

The Sierrita Mountains southwest of Tucson are rather nice, we were pleased to find over the last week, especially on the north side with grass, many big oaks, junipers, mesquite and saguaros. But there were also too many cows and some severe overgrazing in some areas on your AZ State Lands.