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State lawmakers say budget to include what-if plan

Arizona voters will know the impact of their decision when they cast ballots in a May 18 special election on a proposed temporary sales tax increase to help balance the next state budget, Republican legislative leaders said Feb. 22.

The leaders said they’ve decided that a Republican legislative budget proposal being prepared for release next week will include two spending levels – one for if the sales tax increase is approved and one for if it is rejected. That’s a swing of about $900 million.

“We think the only fair thing is to have the people know exactly what they’re voting for when it comes down to it,” said Senate President Bob Burns. “If you vote in opposition to the increase in revenue, then you need to accept that there needs to be reductions.”

Burns and House Majority Leader John McComish said approval of a contingency budget also means legislators wouldn’t have to return to work after the May 18 election to make changes depending on the tax increase’s fate.

“Truthfully, I think we can do a better job of that now than we could if we had to come back in June,” McComish said. “Because of the political realities of campaigns and elections … what I would fear is that we would be stymied.”

The state faces a shortfall of at least $2.6 billion on projected spending of $9.5 billion in the fiscal year starting July 1.

Gov. Jan Brewer proposed the three-year, 1-cent increase to help the state close budget shortfalls, along with spending cuts, borrowing and federal stimulus money.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the governor was “supportive in concept” of a contingency budget “as long as it’s a well thought out plan to deal with the repercussions as pragmatically as possible.”

Repercussions of rejecting the sales tax increase “would be horribly difficult,” Senseman added.

A veteran Democratic legislator said the Republicans’ plan for contingency spending levels in the Republicans’ proposed budget makes sense.

The contents of the budget are “going to be a problem, but I don’t see a problem with the procedure,” said Rep. Phil Lopes of Tucson. “I don’t think that we have a lot of other options because we’re not going to know the outcome of the sales tax until (May 18).”

Burns and McComish declined to discuss details of the Republican legislative budget proposal, but they and other lawmakers have said it is largely based on Brewer’s own budget proposal.

Brewer anticipated additional revenue from the sales tax increase in the next fiscal year but still proposed spending cuts throughout state government, including 5 percent pay cuts for most state employees as early as April 1 and removal of 310,000 people from the state’s Medicaid program on Jan. 1.

She also proposed ending state funding for all-day kindergarten, abolishing the KidsCare health care program, closing most state parks and eliminating the Juvenile Corrections Department – resulting in nearly 1,000 layoffs and sending 400 offenders to county facilities.

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  1. Ok- Now it is becoming apparent–identify those programs which the Arizona Public Does Love and Cherish (all-day kindergarten, abolishing the KidsCare health care program, closing most state parks and eliminating the Juvenile Corrections Department) and if the Special Tax is not voted in-POOF-They will be gone. Politics at it’s finest????? Are there no other programs to cut that would not impact Juvenile Corrections state employees-who would end up on taxpayer funded unemployment roles????

    PLEEEEAAAASE give the Arizona Taxpayer more cerebral credit then is being given to them!!! We do see this charade. Misleading data from the Governor’s Budget Office personnel-presumed experts who tout presumed research findings to futher their agendas and We The Arizona Tax Payer are presumed to fall for this???? Come On!!!! (Shifting the cost from the State to the County Taxpayers).

    The real issue is a need for substantial process improvements and tough legilslative improvements in how Arizona does business. Last year we layed off a substantial number of employees at the Department of Revenue-and now we (the State) are chanllenged in collecting Revenues–DAH!!!. Solution– this year -hire more Department of Revenue Personnel in this years Governor’s Budget Office Proposal. Why did we lay them off in the first place????

    NOOOOOOOOO–do not threaten us with two options. Get it fixed right–beyond immediate knee jerk reactions- and look to the future. Do the right thing once–maybe look at that anonymous proposal for fixing the government revenue streams and act without fear of political reprecussions because things were done at perceived political ramifications as opposed to placate a few radical voices.

    Get Juvenile Corrections off this negotiation’s table!!!!. It involves lives!!!!!!-with potentially serious consequences- both to the Officers involved in managing these youth, the youth incarcerated and worse yet-public safety (While we all wait for the public vote to whether a temporary tax will save the State)!!!!!!!

    Please feel free to check out the rise in Youth Violence in Juvenile Corrections Secure Care–due to this ludicrous proposal. (Public Information Request to ADJC). Violence was trending down by 50% this last two years, and now has started to trend upward significantly. To the credit of the ADJC Juvenile Correction’s Professionals- they are getting a handle on it.

    But like we all KNOW- EVERY ACTION RESULTS IN SOME-TIMES AN UNINTENDED REACTION. This has proven itself–to ADJC Officers. Assaults on Officers have spiked since the proposal of eliminating ADJC was made. (closure of prisons-moving population cultures from one place to another-disruption of programming and education). This results in more Officers getting hurt and youth being sent to the Adult System.

    LEGISLATIORS AND THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET OFFICE–Do not prolong this and use PUBLIC SAFETY as a means to accomplish an agenda-either from the Governor’s Budget Office and/or the State Legislature. End it NOW!!! Do not use Public Safety in Negotiations!!!!

    I trust our Legisislators will do the right thing the first time-instead of prolonging the agony and using both agencies and programs as hostage for agendas.


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