Even with slim majority Republicans ignore Democrats’ budget ideas

Guest Opinion//June 21, 2021

Even with slim majority Republicans ignore Democrats’ budget ideas

Guest Opinion//June 21, 2021

The historic Arizona Capitol building. Arizona legislators have introduced several bills this year to allow the Legislature to have greater control over state agencies and other elected bodies. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
The historic Arizona Capitol building.  PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

What would happen if the Arizona legislature listened and worked together across party lines to create a budget that works for all Arizonans?  With an unexpected revenue surplus this year, we finally have the chance to address long-neglected needs in education, infrastructure, health care, and other state responsibilities that help everyone thrive. Unfortunately, even though Republicans hold only the slightest majority in the House (31-29) and Senate (16-14), they continue to exclude all Democrats (who represent nearly half the electorate) from budget discussions. That’s just wrong.  

Just as significantly, their strategy to force through a budget with only Republicans isn’t working. 

On June 7, it took just one Republican to cross party lines and join Democrats to help defeat budget bills containing the PERMANENT $1.5+ billion annual tax cut I recently wrote about why I oppose this disastrous “flat tax” planbut Republicans like Rep David Cook say they ALSO oppose it because: 

  1. the revenue losses to cities and towns would devastate their ability to meet public safety and other expenses,  
  2.  members were given no time to review the hundreds of pages of amendments we were presented just 30 minutes ahead of the vote,
  3.  it’s not fiscally responsible to base a budget on revenue forecasts that may have been artificially enhanced by billions of dollars of federal Covid relief, 
  4. Arizona should be using more of this temporarily available revenue to pay off our substantial debt. So many of us agree! 

Other Republicans in the House and Senate continue to voice additional objections to their proposed budget, making it all the less likely that Republicans can pass it alone. 

Earlier this week, a Republican committee chair suggested to a Democratic legislator that she might just push for a so-called “skinny budget” again this year. He responded as I would have – no.  We should pass a budget that makes major investments in our long-neglected responsibilities for infrastructure, classrooms, access to health care, and support for our local businesses, and leave the big tax and revenue policy changes for a special session later. Her immediate response was, “Oh no, I’d lose half the Republican votes.”  Well, you know what? We’d likely gain half the Democrats, giving us a truly bi-partisan budget.  

Democrats stand ready to work together on a budget that works for all Arizonans, not just the wealthiest few. And as Democratic Minority Leader Reginald Bolding recently explained, we support a tax policy that not only works for the short-term, but for the long-term as well.  

The State House opens each session with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Often, when I hear Republican members pray that we all work together for the good of Arizona, I think to myself, “There are 29 of us across the aisle raising our hands high, wanting very much to work together for the good of our state!”  Yet, we are ignored, and the priorities of the people we represent – nearly half of Arizona voters – are not considered. Nonetheless, Democrats continue to show up every day to work for our communities, ready to negotiate, and eager to add our own good ideas to the mix. There is so much we could agree on, if only we were allowed to participate.  

The people of Arizona are counting on us to work together on behalf of all of us. What if we actually did? 

Rep. Judy Schwiebert represents Legislative District 20.