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With a clearer picture of state and federal funds available, conservative Republicans speak up

Let me begin by thanking you for the great honor of serving you in the state Legislature. Now that the state’s revenue figures are revealed and the details of the federal bailout bill are coming to light, it is time that I and other conservative Republican state legislators take a position.
Originally, the Legislature believed we would end fiscal 2009 with a $1.6 billion deficit. We amended the budget accordingly. We were up against a deadline of Feb. 1 to keep $160 million from falling into the hands of the very state agency directors that Janet Napolitano and the past legislative majority enabled to overspend. Meeting our deadline by cutting $1.1 billion from the budget and presuming that we would plug in $500 million in Medicaid backfill from the so-called stimulus bill, we quickly reached the 16 votes in the Senate and 31 votes in the House needed to reconcile the fiscal 2009 budget.
The deficit in fiscal 2009 will be greater, though, so the Legislature will need to reconcile the budget again.
Now that the massive bailout bill has passed and Gov. Jan Brewer is likely to accept most of the federal funds, we presume that public education will be mostly, if not completely, made whole for the two years that the bailout money is available. The money to restore public education cannot come out of the state’s general fund if there is to be a balanced budget for fiscal 2010. The funds should come from the bailout bill. The reductions in welfare benefits from the Department of Economic Security and the Department of Health Services also cannot be restored from the general fund. If the bailout bill does not provide for temporary relief, Arizona citizens will need to learn to live without state assistance.
In addition, the bailout bill provided additional resources for extended unemployment benefits, which the state will likely refuse. Accepting these funds requires the state to change statutes to provide the benefits to those that lost a part-time job in addition to those that lost a full-time job. The Legislature would need to increase the weekly benefit and increase the length of time that someone could receive the benefit. This would cause a tax increase on businesses to keep the fund stable and makes the provision unworkable. Many states, with Republican and Democratic governors, are weighing their options and considering refusing these funds.
Because of the massive growth in general fund spending for voter-approved initiatives, every other part of the state budget is getting squeezed. Out of 6 million people in Arizona, more than 1.2 million people are receiving Medicaid through AHCCCS. Historically, the federal government has covered two-thirds of the cost of AHCCCS and the state general fund covered the other one-third. The mandated growth in AHCCCS means that everything else that is not voter-protected by initiative is on the table. Many programs were reduced or eliminated through DES and DHS. KidsCare, a state subsidized program that is for the middle-class, probably would have been eliminated in the fiscal 2010 budget to save the state matching dollars if the federal government had not linked the Medicaid backfill money to the maintenance of service levels. Now, the Legislature has fewer areas to look at in reducing $3 billion from the fiscal 2010 budget in order for it to balance. That makes the Legislature look at public safety as the next big pot of state spending that is not voter-protected by initiative.
Brighter days are ahead for Arizona. We are in a unique position to attract businesses from the California. Their legislature is spineless and panders to the spending lobby at the slightest pressure. Our governor’s advisers continue to push for a tax increase that may or may not be referred to the ballot. Taxes will not be raised by the Legislature with a vote by the people. Regardless, the fiscal 2010 budget must be passed without assuming that taxes will be raised.
I do not speak for the entire Republican caucus, and certainly not the minority party, but I hope to summarize this with a broad view of what to expect in the next budget for the under-employed or over-expectant.
If you are relying on any services from the state that are not mandated by the federal government, I advise you that those services may end June 30, 2009.
If you have children that require expensive experimental treatment or therapy that is not provided by the federal government, I advise that the state does not have the money for it after June 30.
If you have been laid off from your job and are not willing to take a job that is available, unemployment benefits, food stamps, and AHCCCS for health care, are going to fall short of what you could make by being employed.
Arizona will not follow the country into socialism. If you feel you need greater assistance and are not able to move to another state, please turn to your local churches and give them the opportunity to show their generosity and love.
If you are ready to bind together and bring this state back to it full potential, then I thank you. You, the working class and the employers of the state, will show that capitalism still works in America. Together, we will restore our manufacturing base and compete with the rest of the world for jobs that produce goods. We will educate the next generation with a goal of having college-educated producers. We will streamline government to do the things for you that you could not do for yourself.
— Sen. Jack Harper is a Republican from Surprise.

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