Arizona Legislative Republicans did the state a disservice by pushing through a bait-and-switch budget that lacks vision, leaves kids of working families without health care coverage and fails to create jobs.
Tea Party legislators appear satisfied with hanging their hats on the rainy day fund in their budget. That’s the bait. The reality is their budget will leave such a large deficit in fiscal year 2015 that it drains the rainy day fund dry. Even then, the state will be left with about $150 million of debt. That’s the switch.
The rest of the budget is laced with irresponsible choices and misplaced priorities. Republicans struck a deal with Gov. Jan Brewer that generations of Arizonans will have to finance. Their priorities are wrong.
House Democrats have been calling for the restoration of KidsCare since the governor froze the program in January 2010. A $7 million investment would provide medical coverage for thousands of children from working families. The Republicans did not see fit to support this program, but they want to allow the state to join lawsuits against the voter-approved Independent Redistricting Commission. Some Republicans are upset with the IRC because they don’t like their chances of winning in the new districts the IRC created. They want to spend tax dollars to sue, which could cost millions. That money would be better spent on health care for Arizona’s children.
Tea Party lawmakers swiped $50 million from the Arizona Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund. This is a multi-state settlement with the federal government against the five largest residential mortgage loan servicers who engaged in fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices. The money is supposed to help families hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. The Republicans decided it is more important to use this money to build additional private prisons.
Tea Party legislators will have a lot to answer for during the upcoming elections. The budget that is waiting on the governor’s desk does nothing to create jobs, it leaves the state in debt by fiscal year 2015, it ignores children of working families who need health care coverage and it steals from homeowners who were already victimized by fraudulent loan practices.
Every House Democrat voted against this budget and its misplaced priorities. It was the only responsible thing to do. Especially considering it kills jobs. The state loses jobs in tourism because Republicans don’t fund the State Parks Department and limit future funding for the Office of Tourism. Both are major job creators in Arizona. It also kills jobs in the health care industry by failing to support rate increases for all health care providers. This budget jeopardizes jobs and people’s health across the state.
Democrats proposed a budget to create jobs, provide health services and support quality education. It was responsible and realistic. Maybe next year, the Republicans will be willing to have serious discussions with our caucus. We’d be more than happy to help them create a budget that works for the people of Arizona, instead of against them.
– Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, is minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives.