Editorials brutally harsh on GOP budget

The first editorial opinions are in regarding the authoritarian Tea-Publican budget passed in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and let’s just it ain’t pretty.

Even the GOP-friendly Arizona Republic fka The Arizona Republican is brutally harsh on the GOP budget. Here’s a thought, editors: come endorsement time, just don’t endorse any Tea-Publicans for election to office. How hard is that?

From The Republic, Arizona deserves better than this budget:

Cartoon_07Arizona’s new budget is more about looking backward than forward. It lacks vision and courage.

It does not reflect the bold thinking this state needs as it continues the climb back from the recession.

The $9.6 billion spending plan prolongs austerity while continuing to reduce the revenue needed to run a modern state.

Gov. Doug Ducey got relatively modest tax cuts for business, which fulfills his pledge to cut taxes every year. But with past tax cuts still phasing in, this looks more like nodding to political ideology than facing hard facts about what Arizona needs.

The state’s universities, which were cut by $99 million last year, got an additional $32 million. But $5 million was earmarked for so-called freedom schools that offer “education” with a strong philosophical bent that is favored by some on the right.

Keeping our universities on a starvation diet and mandating narrow, ideological curriculum is not the way to preserve the good national reputation those institutions have earned.

These freedom schools at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University got seed money from the billionaire Koch brothers, who supported Ducey’s campaign for governor through a network of “dark money” contributions.

Dark money, dark budget

The process that produced this budget was dark, too.

The Democrats – and the public — were cut out of the budget negotiations. During debate on the budget bills, Democratic Rep. Randall Friese urged Republican leadership to move more slowly because Democrats had not had much time to review the budget that will govern state spending.

He was ignored.

The public was also ignored as GOP lawmakers rejected the chance to reinstate KidsCare – a health-care program for the working poor that would have been fully funded by the federal government until at least 2017 and possibly longer. It had strong public support.

In rejecting a no-cost-to-the state program that could have opened the doctor’s office to 30,000 children, the GOP-controlled Legislature made sure Arizona remains the only state without a version of the federal health care program for children of the working poor.

A number of House Democrats made an impassioned plea for the program, which had previously passed the House as a separate bill and was blocked by Senate President Andy Biggs. They did not succeed.

Starving its universities and keeping sick kids from visiting the doctor? This is not the image of a visionary state. This is not a brand Arizona can sell.

Remember this lame “Il Duce” PR stunt? Arizona looks to boost image with branding campaign. Yeah, epic fail. How not to build Arizona’s brand.

The one bright spot

The one bright spot was K-12 education. And it wasn’t bright enough to put on your sunglasses.

The budget had stalled because of objections from some Republican lawmakers about the impact of previous policy changes in how school funding is calculated. Standing up for better K-12 funding is a hopeful sign.

But all lawmakers did was basically delay the policy changes so schools will be held harmless for the coming year. It’s called kicking the can down the road.

A proposal by Democrats to restore $116 million to K-12 that had been cut in previous years was rejected, even though it could have been funded by delaying the phase-in of previously approved tax cuts.

The willingness to continue tax cuts while Arizona’s K-12 schools remain seriously underfunded will not inspire confidence as voters ponder Proposition 123, which taps the state land trust to repay inflation funding that lawmakers illegally withheld from schools during the recession. A good faith effort to begin addressing long-term needs of schools would have been better.

Arizona deserves better than this budget. It deserves leaders who are willing to open up the budget process to Democrats and the public. It deserves a spending plan the moves beyond cramped, recession-era thinking to show the nation that this state cares about its children and their education.

The Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff editorializes, Our View: ‘Balanced’ budget leaves $1 billion surplus on table:

It’s been an interesting budget year in Arizona – to say the least.

A year after newly elected Gov. Doug Ducey, pleading poverty, cut $99 million from the universities and played hardball on K-12 inflation funding, budget analysts have projected a surplus by June 2017 of $600 million and a rainy day fund of $400 million.

But Ducey and the Republican legislative leadership have continued to pinch pennies, at least on the general fund tax subsidies for education. The governor and his allies pleaded the need to return Arizona to a “structurally balanced” budget, which involved ending some accounting gimmicks such as withholding the final monthly schools payments until the new fiscal year.

In other words, the budget is now balanced on paper until that $1 billion surplus and rainy day fund show up on the books next year. That’s more than 10 percent on a $9.6 billion spending plan, and even passage of Prop. 123 would not draw it down much – all but $50 million of next year’s new K-12 money would come out of the state land trust fund. The $30 million for technical education is money that was cut last year and now restored.

For universities, Ducey and the GOP found an extra $32 million after that $99 million cut – but only about $9 million is for ongoing operations. NAU, which lost $17 million, got back $1.5 million in general funding on an operating budget of $240 million, plus $4 million for one-time repairs. The backlog for the latter, however, is more than $100 million.

A puzzling part of the university funding boost is the $5 million in public tax dollars to privately endowed institutes at ASU touting free-market principles – including those funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers. The independent scholarship at the institutes was already suspect because of the funding source; now, a further financial boost from conservative Republicans will torpedo its credibility, whether justifiably or not.

Ducey also supported $9.2 million in a matching state grant if the feds fund a veterans home in Flagstaff atop McMillan Mesa. Maybe NAU should have offered to co-house it on campus in exchange for money to fix up an old dormitory or two.

For political reasons, Republicans backed off private school vouchers – at least until after the May 17 vote on public school funding. But privately run charters now have access to a $100 million guaranteed loan fund for new and expanded facilities. And there’s money in the budget to start operating 1,000 new privately run prison beds and build another 1,000 if found to be justified.

But there is no money for KidsCare – even though the health care program for 30,000 children of the working poor wouldn’t cost Arizona a dime. It is being paid for 100 percent by the federal government for at least the next two years, when it changes to a 3-to-1 match, or a cost of about $15 million. One lawmaker, Senate President Andy Biggs, held up the program until it was too late to salvage in the budget – putting Arizona alone among the 50 states to be without KidsCare.

As we said at the top, an interesting budget year, and potentially not over if Ducey and the Republicans come back for another round of tax cuts and private school vouchers after May 17. And if there’s a billion dollars on the table next year as predicted, “interesting” will be too mild a word in a state where everyone says the education funding boost is just beginning with Prop. 123.

Two words for that: “We’ll see.”

If this election is about “trust,” clearly the editors of the Arizona Daily Sun do not trust our Tea-Publican legislators to act in good faith, and neither should you.

And our sad small town newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star (“All the news Jim Click decides is fir to print“)? The sound of crickets chirping.

Well, the Star did publish a stenographic puff piece about Governor Ducey at the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce luncheon, a favor to its Presdient/CEO Lea Márquez-Peterson, who served on Ducey’s election team. Ducey touts Prop. 123 in Tucson visit:

[Ducey] also touted the budget for next year, calling it a success.

Specifically, he said the state Legislature wants to reward the state’s three universities and that University of Arizona will “win big” in terms of funding next year.

The Star treats its readers like mushrooms: keeps them in the dark and feeds them bullshit. Wouldn’t want Jim Click to pull his advertising dollars, now would we?

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