Arizona fails ‘the moral test of government’

It has often been said that “budgets  are moral documents.” The late, great Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN) said it best when he said:

Humphrey

Our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature and governor negotiated a “stealth” budget behind closed doors in secret negotations, and then “rammed it through, jammed it through” the legislature in the dead of night on Friday into Saturday morning when most Arizonans were asleep, so that there would be no organized protests from angry citizens, and even the media largely was absent to report on this travesty until after the dirty deed had been done. This is not how a representative democracy is supposed to function. This is how authoritarian regimes function.

The budget enacted by our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature and governor fails miserably the “moral test of government” of which Sen. Humphrey so eloquently spoke. This amoral budget is “balanced” (in fiction only) on the backs of children and the poor — those who cannot vote and those who do not vote — while preserving the special interest corporate welfare tax breaks for their campaign contributors.

NorquistThe modern-day Tea-Publican Party is a socio-politico-religious cult that adheres to only one Commandment: “Thou shall not raise taxes” — for any reason, ever. Many of our Tea-Publican legislators over the years have sworn an oath of loyalty not to the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions as their oath of office requires, but rather to their lord and master, the Ayatollah Grover Norquist, and his “no new tax” pledge. Their devotion to this religious dogma transcends their loyalty to country, state, and local communities they purport to serve.

Howard Fischer reports, Arizona lawmakers approve $9.1B budget:

State lawmakers adopted a $9.1 billion budget for the coming fiscal year early Saturday, but not before more than eight hours of debate and a series of changes to what Gov. Doug Ducey had proposed.

Those changes became necessary to line up the required votes for the package. But in some ways they represent a defeat for the new governor in his first attempt to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to adopt a spending plan of his design.

For example, the final budget includes $102 million in new spending on K-12 education.

But Ducey will not be able to crow, as he did when he released his budget in January, that he is putting $134 million into classrooms.

Ducey was not offering new money but simply making an accounting maneuver: Force schools to shift 5 percent of non-classroom funding into the classroom, effectively taking the money from themselves.

The version adopted says the intent is that schools increase what they are spending on the instructional side of the equation. But it no longer limits that to “classroom” funding — mainly teacher salaries — but now also includes everything from librarians and counselors to teacher training and curriculum development.

And there is no specific requirement to move 5 percent of the budget from one side of the ledger to the other, with each district deciding how much it can shift.

ClassroomsFirstRemember when Gov. Dicey Doug Ducey promoted his “#ClassroomsFirst” campaign earlier this year?

What he really meant was that when it comes to wielding the budget axe, education would be the first on the chopping block and it would suffer the cruelest cuts.

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who serves on a school board, said schools could not live with the lack of flexibility proposed by the governor. He also said the change recognizes there is far more to educating students than just teachers.

“We have school psychologists, we have speech pathologists, things like that,” he said. “If those positions don’t exist, you can’t even get into the classroom.’

And Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said the original plan would hit rural areas particularly hard, potentially forcing schools to cut back on transportation.

“We have miles of bus routes,” she said, saying picking up students is necessary to “getting them in the seats.”

The final deal also restores $1.6 million the governor sought to take from Central Arizona College.

Conversely, Ducey wanted to cut state aid to Pima and Maricopa community colleges by half. The final budget cuts it all.

At the university level, the governor had asked to cut state aid by just $75 million. But the final package boosts that to $99 million.

The decision to take more from the universities than Ducey wanted was driven by Senate President Andy Biggs rejecting the governor’s call to nearly double the current $8 a year Arizonans pay to register their vehicles. That charge, above the license tax based on a vehicle’s value, would have raised $30 million.

Ducey argued that did not violate his pledge not to hike taxes, calling it a fee. Biggs disagreed.

“That’s a tax increase,” he said.

The Ayatollah Grover Norquist smiled a contented smile at the dogmatic devotion of his loyal cult follower, Andy Biggs.

Ducey’s proposal to contract for 3,000 new private prison beds also did not survive.

Instead, lawmakers agreed to seek space for 1,000 medium-security inmates, leaving the door open for Ducey to ask for 1,000 more in 2017. And the package permits county sheriffs who say they have unused space in their jails to bid to provide some of these beds.

Lawmakers also voted to cut reimbursement to health care providers and ambulance services that serve Medicaid patients by 5 percent; Ducey had sought just a 3 percent cut.

And lawmakers put a one-year lifetime benefit on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. That program aids parents or caregivers with children, with benefits for a family of three of $277 a month.

Remember, our Tea-Publican legislators also claim to be super-devout Christians as well. Jesus Christ would beg to differ. Matthew 25:31-46 (shorter version: “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”) Demonizing the poor is the very antithesis of the teachings of Jesus Christ. He would chase these money changers out of the Temple.

Elsewhere in the budget, Ducey had asked for money for caseload growth at the new Department of Child Safety. Virtually all of that is gone, with Biggs insisting there’s no proof the agency needs the cash.

“DCS has received several hundred million dollars in the last 15 months,” he said, and now has an $850 million budget.

“We don’t even know what’s been going on with them,” Biggs said. “We need some transparency, we need some accountability.”

Remember the big “scandal” from last year involving CPS case files not investigated? And the “scandal” from this year involving the foster care system? Meh. Children don’t vote, and neither do their poor parents, so the amoral Andy Biggs does not give a damn what happens to these poor children so long as special interest tax cuts for corporate welfare are preserved for his campaign contributors.

And lawmakers voted to make counties pick up a share of the cost of running the quadrennial presidential preference primary.

In 2012, when only Republicans had a primary — the Democrats had incumbent Barack Obama — the Legislature agreed to fully fund the election. For 2016, with both parties seeking a nominee, the state will pay only $1.25 per registered voter, a figure county officials say covers only a fraction of the cost.

* * *

There were some other last-minute additions to the budget in an effort to gain needed votes.

For example, Biggs inserted $1.2 million for transportation projects on the Navajo Nation, represented by Sen. Carlyle Begay, D-Ganado. In the end, Begay provided the 16th vote Republicans needed in the Senate after Republicans Jeff Dial of Chandler and Steve Pierce of Prescott refused to go along with the majority on several bills in the package.

[Way to whore yourself, Begay. You are gone in 2016. Begay’s single Democratic vote allowed Gov. Ducey to falsely claim that this budget is “bipartisan,” after Democrats were shut out and never consulted during the secret budget negotiations.]

The House, with 36 Republicans, did not need Democrat votes even though several Republicans were not on board.

Rep. Chris Ackerley of Sahuarita balked after expressing concern about several issues, including shifting costs to counties. But Ackerley has a political reason to break party ranks if he hopes to get reelected: He is a freshman in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans.

The GOP also was unable to get the backing of Reps. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix or Bob Robson of Chandler.

While some GOP lawmakers held out for changes, others agreed to go along without getting what they wanted.

Or as Democratic Rep. Mark Cardenas joked, Republicans “folded like the French in WWII” under pressure from GOP leadership. badum-CHING!

The most offensive thing I have read is the Statement from the Governor after passage of the budget, no doubt drafted by his press flak, “Douchebag Danny” Scarpinato, the former political reporter hack for the Arizona Daily Star and political hatchet man for the RNCC:

Governor Doug Ducey Praises Passage of Arizona’s Bipartisan Balanced Budget

March 7, 2015

PHOENIX – Governor Doug Ducey today praised the passage of Arizona’s Balanced Budget – a fiscally-responsible, bipartisan budget that sets priorities, makes real permanent decisions and solves the state’s structural deficit while protecting essential services for vulnerable populations.

The first structurally-balanced plan since 2007, the budget reflects the governor’s and Legislature’s commitment to protecting classrooms, child safety and public safety – while eliminating the state’s structural deficit by 2017 and protecting taxpayers from a tax increase.

“The people elected us to get the job done and that’s what we’ve done,” said Governor Ducey. “We’ve passed a balanced, bipartisan budget that prioritizes wisely, protects our most vulnerable and restores Arizona to a structurally-balanced budget by fiscal 2017. If we want to see meaningful and lasting improvement in our schools and economy, government must start living within its means and practicing fiscal responsibility. We recognize that families, businesses and taxpayers do this every day. This budget reflects my commitment to representing Arizonans – not special interests. I want to thank the Legislature, especially the leadership of President Biggs and Speaker Gowan, for working diligently to get this done for the people of Arizona. This is a budget that reflects our state’s priorities and for that we should all be proud.”

No, governor. You have failed miserably the “moral test of government.” This budget in no way “reflects our state’s priorities,” nor is it something of which you or anyone should be proud — you and your lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature should be deeply ashamed.

One response to “Arizona fails ‘the moral test of government’

  1. Frances Perkins

    Disgusting beyond belief. Arizona the bought and paid for domain of the Goldwater/Koch Brothers conspiracy. Every public school parent who did not vote in the last election should be ashamed.