Arizona’s Children, Poor, and Middle Class should be prioritized first in this years Budget Negotiations

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The State Budget being considered by Arizona State Legislators should benefit all and not just a few; the poor and middle class along with the wealthy; our most vulnerable along with our most successful.

Unfortunately, some Republicans, despite current events, still have not fully learned the lessons of the 2018 elections and want to support measures that would financially burden our poor and middle class more than they already are when compared to our most affluent. Some reactionaries also may not be willing to provide assistance to our most vulnerable.

This perspective from the once Party of Lincoln is wrong and, if allowed to be translated fully into a state budget act for 2019/20 would move the state further backward, further increase social and financial inequality, and put our most vulnerable in a larger black hole that they would find hard to escape from.

It is time to prioritize Arizona’s Children, Poor, and Middle Class first in this Years Budget Negotiations.

According to the Progressive organizations The Children’s Action Alliance and The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Arizona’s Children, Poor, and Middle Class have dire needs that require urgent attention from legislators as they craft the budget for fiscal year 2019/20.

These needs include:

• Maintaining funding parity with Kids Care so children are not thrown off the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

• Adding monies for pregnant women to receive dental care.

• Increased allocations (preferably full) for Pre K through a college education. This includes financing for additional counselors, social workers, addressing the teaching shortage, school building construction, maintenance, and renovation, and child care subsidies for working families.

• Relief for children placed with the Department of Child Safety.

• Housing assistance for the poor and lower middle class through the Housing Trust Fund.

• Increasing the rainy day account.

In order to fund these needs, both organizations oppose tried and disproven Republican economic dogma like:

• Expansion of corporate tax cuts.

• Raising the regressive Proposition 301 sales tax on the backs of the poor and middle class to fund some (not near enough) of our needs in education.

• Providing tax credits for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (Vouchers to attend Private Schools).

• Not taxing state online sales (or “digital products”) or state capital gains on real estate transactions.

• Sustaining a level of economic and social inequality where the rich pay less in state and local taxes than the poor (who pay the most) and middle class.

Arizona Center for Economic Progress Head and former House Democratic Leader David Lujan

When asked to comment on the current budget negotiations and process, Arizona Center for Economic Progress head (and former House Democratic Leader) David Lujan relayed that:

“It seems like this year, more so than most years, a lot of the big issues will be decided in the budget negotiations. This includes issues like whether there will be any new investments in public education, whether the legislature creates a big new tax loophole for certain types of digital goods, and will they set aside some of the revenue surpluses they have this year to prepare for the next recession or will they instead give that additional revenue away in the form of more tax cuts for corporations and the rich. Some of the priorities that the Arizona Center for Economic Progress would like to see come out of the budget negotiations would be stopping the automatic annual 20% growth of corporate tax credits that go to private schools, stopping those special-interest tax cuts that I mentioned, appropriating more money this year for teacher salaries and public school classroom resources rather than making schools wait another two years for the funding under Governor Ducey’s plan, and also restoring the funding that was cut more than a decade ago from the Housing Trust Fund which is critical to increasing affordable housing in Arizona. We want to see a state budget which helps everyday Arizonans move up the economic ladder rather than one which expands the economic inequities we already have in this state.”

In the news release criticizing the Republican Plans (SCR 1001 and HCR 2024) sponsored by State Senator Sylvia Allen and State Representative Michelle Udall (which was surprisingly embraced by embattled Republican State Chair Kelli Ward) to raise the Proposition 301 Sales Tax to a full penny, the Children’s Action Alliance accused the Republicans of budget gimmicky, adding that “voters deserve a proposal that offers fairness, value, and educational results for their tax dollars.”

These sentiments towards the Allen-Udall Sales Tax proposal and other conservative budget “solutions” facing Arizona from Democrats like Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, state legislators, and advocacy organizations have been known since the legislative session began in January. It is time for Republicans to realize that Arizona is not ruby red anymore and that their voodoo-trickle down economics approach to the budget will not generate the support in this closely divided state legislature.

It is time for Republicans to put Arizona’s Children, Poor, and Middle Class first for once and meet with Democrats to forge a budget that will benefit all of Arizona’s citizens, reduce the divide between the haves and have not’s, and move the state forward towards a prosperous future where all reap in the rewards.

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