The Arizona Budget Coalition, representing organizations against a budget solution that relies heavily on spending cuts, proposed alternative means of raising revenue while lawmakers attended Day 2 of the special session.
Representatives from the Arizona Education Foundation, the Children’s Action Alliance, the Service Employees International Union and the Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition spoke at the press conference held the morning of Nov. 18.
Tim Schmaltz, coordinator of PAFCO, echoed the feelings of all the speakers when he said, shaking his fist, “we can’t balance the budget on the backs of children and vulnerable adults.”
The coalition, made up of 43 education, health and human services groups, proposed six alternative options to balance the state’s $2 billion deficit for this fiscal year, including some short- and long-term alternatives.
The coalition’s proposals echoed previous plans to raise sales taxes or widen the tax base, but it also suggested temporarily borrowing from state revenue streams, such as the state lottery and money from the state’s tobacco settlement, and restoring Department of Revenue staff to collect unpaid taxes. The suggestions were similar to what legislative Democrats have proposed.
On a less-specific level, the coalition recommended encouraging Congress and President Obama to send another round of stimulus money and making various accounting changes and funding adjustments.
Dana Naimark, president and CEO of the Children’s Action Alliance, said she felt like she was in the movie “Groundhog Day,” reliving the same proposed cuts in June, July and September. If forced to pick the one thing Legislators cannot cut, Naimark said she would have to pick two.
“There are many things, but children’s health care, including children’s rehabilitation services, and Child Protective Services, not just the investigation side, but services to keep children safe as well,” she said.
Andrew Morrill, vice president of the Arizona Education Association, had a different idea. He emphasized that investment in education years ago would have helped create a recession safeguard with regards to investment and outcome. He cited Arizona’s low national standings as reasons to avoid cuts to education.
“We know the impact of past cuts,” he said. “And all other options should be exercised before these cuts.”