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