Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, a Democrat from Phoenix, was joined by a crowd of nearly 100 parents and children Feb. 20 to challenge a decision by lawmakers to cut funding for state-run services for vulnerable children.
The group gathered on the Senate Lawn to protest cuts made to the Department of Economic Security's Healthy Families Arizona program, a child abuse-prevention program created in October 1991. The budget for programs affecting 150 communities across the state was reduced by 75 percent earlier this month by DES officials who were charged with carrying out $103 million in agency cuts that were included in the budget signed Jan. 31.
The cuts are expected to eliminate or trim services for more than 300,000 families throughout the state, which Republicans called duplicates of those provided by Child Protective Services.
"The budget is being balanced on the backs of children," Landrum Taylor said. "This is nothing to be proud of as a state, and something I would never, ever support."
The only lawmaker in attendance at the press conference, Landrum Taylor said many members of the Democratic Caucus were upset because Republicans passed a budget that "abandons the state's most vulnerable population."
"It is a disgrace that I have to be here to fight for something like this," she said. "But guess what? We will fight."
Despite her intentions to keep her speech about "people, not politics," Landrum Taylor blamed the state's ever-growing budget deficit on leaders in the Republican Party who decided against holding a special session to revise the fiscal 2009 budget before the regular session began in January.
"If we had had a special session, we could have stopped the hemorrhaging of the budget," she said. "These are cuts that did not have to be."
Landrum Taylor said the budget proposal provided by former Gov. Janet Napolitano in the final hours before she left for Washington, D.C., would have been a better choice for Arizonans.
On Feb. 24, Democrats are expected to roll out a plan for putting money back into several programs providing services for children.