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Home / Opinion / Commentary / In voting for Medicaid, senators were just doing their job

In voting for Medicaid, senators were just doing their job

Sen. Steve Pierce (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

It was heartening to see The Arizona Republic editorial board endorse the Arizona Senate’s action to support Governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid proposal as “courageous.” While it is always nice to get accolades in politics, I must admit it was not an act of courage, but simply what we were elected to do.

The proposal as written will restore the law of this state (as passed twice by Arizona voters) without decimating our state’s fiscal health – period. Any senator that was willing to look at the facts and go through the options that Governor Brewer faced prior to coming out with this plan, would easily come to this conclusion.

It bothers me that some of the opponents in the Senate were seen as courageous for their opposition. How can it be called courageous to know that 63,000 of our poorest Arizonans will get kicked off their health coverage come January 1st and not have an alternative plan? How is it courageous to say we will drain our rainy day fund and impose close to a billion dollars of new state responsibility to pay for it over the next three years? How is it courageous to say they oppose Obamacare, yet are willing to move this population into the federal exchanges created by Obamacare, and say they are not impacting the federal debt? How is it courageous to say they want to uphold Arizona laws and the will of the voters, but ignore the fact that Arizona voters twice have voted to cover these childless adults?

Another of the reasons used to not take these dollars for Medicaid expansion is that those dollars will be borrowed. Maybe so! I heartily agree! If we want to be purists and not take money from the feds for this reason, then we better stop taking Social Security checks, Medicaid or Medicare payments, or all the dollars coming from the feds for education, DES, ADEQ, ADOT and the highways. All of these programs and agencies receive federal funding. Why is it ok to accept those monies? Apparently my colleagues don’t realize the Legislature deals with $8-9 billion dollars of the budget. In truth, the Arizona’s real budget is more like $25 billion, of which more than one third is federal dollars.
So let’s be honest here!

There are many things I vehemently opposed about the federal Affordable Care Act, and I know Governor Brewer did everything she could to fight its implementation, including joining the lawsuit against it. However, as the head of the conservative Arizona Tax Research Association, Kevin McCarthy, said, “…opposition to the governor’s proposal ignores the current legal framework for Medicaid coverage and the relatively few realistic options that are available to Arizona.” So realizing what is in the best interest of the state, and realizing what options we have available to us under the law, and also realizing our citizens made it clear through two ballot propositions as to what they want, the choice was clear.

Political courage, in my estimation, is standing by your convictions and values you hold dear. However, it is also the ability to look past partisan vitriol and hyperbole that sounds great in a stump speech but doesn’t hold water in reality. My good friend and political mentor, Fife Symington (former Arizona Governor) wrote about this issue recently saying, “A governor must see these facts as they are, not as she wishes they were. And she must act to protect her state against the range of bad outcomes which might be coming.” This is why I am proud of what my colleagues and I did, by working with our governor, and in a bi-partisan manner, do what is in Arizona’s best interest.

It wasn’t courageous – it was our job! We were elected to do a job not keep it, or pass it off for the voters to decide. My grade comes at election time.

– State Sen. Steve Pierce is a Republican who represents Prescott.


  1. Dear Senator Pierce,

    While I have differed from you on many issues, I strongly commend you and your Senate colleagues for your outspoken support of Gov Brewer’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

    It is heartening to see a growing wave of bipartisan support in our state legislature for this much needed legislation. It is difficult to see how anyone in their right mind could be against the Governor’s proposal. Most importantly, passage will avail an estimated 300,000 additional low-income Arizonans to quality health care at no net cost to the state, and thousands of lives will be saved. And as you are well aware, the bi-partisan Grand Canyon Institute estimates that the influx of 1.6 billion federal Medicaid dollars will bring an additional 21,000 jobs to our state, many of these will be in the high-paying health care sector.

    Again, Senator Pierce, I commend you and your Senate colleagues for placing the people of Arizona first and foremost in your voting in favor of the Governor’s proposal.

    A CALL TO ACTION TO READERS: We must now urge each and every member of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of Medicaid expansion this week. We must follow our hearts and do the right thing for the people of Arizona!

    Respectfully yours,

    John Newport, PhD, DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)
    Former Senior Level Health Services Research and Policy Analyst, UCLA School of Public Health
    Columnist, The Tucson Citizen “Healing Tucson and Our Nation”

  2. Correct me if I am wrong, but was it not the “voters” who have mandated this Medicaid spending as ill advised as it may have been at the time? I mean, could we really not see this coming. Why tax us more just to pull down federal dollars you all know will go away at some point in time? Suck it up, pay for it with available dollars in the rainy day fund and cut other spending to pay for it in the future. Then go to the voters to repeal the increased Medicaid spending priority.

  3. John Newport likes Steve Pierce now but will be the first one to vote him out when a Democrat runs against him.

  4. Please identify the 2 times the voters approved to expand any medical coverage that was funded with taxpayer funds and NOT tied to some federal “program”. Also please provide the exact wording on the ballot so we can all know what the voters agreed to.

    The voters of AZ agreed to expanding medicaid because the expansion was tied TO FUNDS GENERATED BY THE TOBACCO TAX not out of the general funds. When those funds went “away” the legislature was left with the hard decision to reduce the number on medicaid. Why do you legislators insist on only telling HALF truths??? doesn’t serve the real purpose of making the health care industry fatter and thus getting YOU more campaign funds. Name ONE health care group that has gone bankrupt please. What do you think will happen when the Fed’s stop sending the money for medicaid??? (they ALWAYS stop sending the funds sooner than later). Are you going to be around when the “trigger” gets pulled?? NO and neither will the Governor. Easy for you to spend OUR money when there is no consequence to you.

    You also fail to acknowledge that the CMS has informed the Gov –and thus the State of AZ taxpayers– that ALL medicaid funds will not be continued in the up coming reauthorization UNLESS those who were dropped are added back on. The actual costs of that addition of 40,000 is in the $600,000 area not $1billion. This means that we do NOT have to throw future generations incomes under the bus to satisfy an out of control federal government

    AND NO, we should NOT be sending all that money to the Feds when we only get a small percentage of it back. Let’s get real. If we sent the percentage to the Feds that they send us and keep the rest here we would come out way farther ahead. Time to re-think the entire tax structure. Since our Congressmen refuse to stop the spending then the sovereign states should quit sending the fiscal narcotics to feed the habits of a bloated Uncle Sam.

    As for all of the politicians that suddenly have “personal convictions and values” contrary to those who elected you and in violation of your oath of office, the Constitutions, your campaign statements AND the party platform there will be a reckoning. We are NOT going to forget your personal convictions and values especially when they are in conflict with our personal convictions and values. You are Fired!!

  5. “Just doing their job” for the ‘too big to fail’ healthcare corporations, public employee unions and special interest lobbyists: ‘BrewerCare’ is another taxpayer funded bailout of the worst sort. didn’t learn your lessons from Napolitano, did you Mr. Pierce. Your tenure as Senate President was filled with more special-interest-pleasing-action than scenes in a western gun fight and you raised the ire of Arizona taxpayers even back then. Now you’ve gone too far and deserve a RECALL ELECTION where LD01 voters will certainly show you their pleasure. Bring your vote into line with your constituents or stay on the black list at

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