Don’t say that I didn’t warn you — the rats like to do their dirty work at night under cover of darkness when no one is around to see what they are doing. While you were sleeping: Legislature approves budget:
In the wee hours Wednesday morning, the Arizona Legislature approved a $9.6 billion budget that restores some funding to K-12 education and provides a tax cut for business owners, while ignoring passionate pleas to revive a children’s health care program for low-income families.
The spending plan that will head to Gov. Doug Ducey passed with Republican support while Democrats ripped its failure to revive the federally funded KidsCare, which they said would have covered 30,000 children at no cost to the state.
The budget voting ran until 1:40 a.m. . . .
Much of the day’s plodding debate centered on KidsCare, which had gathered strong support from Democrats and moderate Republicans last week but didn’t make it into the final budget deal.
The Senate’s Democratic leader, Katie Hobbs, decried the decision as “shameful,” saying, GOP leaders “are so devoted to ideology that they are willing to deny Arizona children their health just to prove a point.”
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, the most ardent opponent of the federally funded health plan, defended the decision to keep Arizona out of the program.
“On the surface, emotionally, this looks like an absolute no-brainer,” Biggs said during floor debate Tuesday night. “I’ve heard four times, from four different speakers, that this costs us nothing. But no government program is free, now or forever. Someone must pay for it.”
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, noted that children with untreated health problems wouldn’t live long enough to worry about the nation’s debt problems.
“What we’re doing is the opposite of what 49 other states are doing,” he said. “Our kids are the ones paying the price.”
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Democrats argued, unsuccessfully, to restore $116 million in K-12 public district and charter school funding cuts made last year or for a delay in pending tax cuts. They said it would be a show of good faith in advance of the May 17 vote on Prop. 123, which would rely heavily on the state land trust instead of the state’s general fund.
The budget holds schools unharmed for the coming year, delaying policy changes that would have led to cuts for numerous school districts with declining enrollment, among other measures.
[The] agreement reversed a $21 million cut to the public schools, not including the annual baseline funding increase for inflation and student-population growth.
This delay is just long enough to get past Election Day. The GOP will be back with their master plan to privatize public education in January, if the voters of this state are foolish enough to return them to office.
The [corporate welfare] proposal allows businesses to more quickly depreciate the deduction they can take for purchases of new equipment. It is estimated to cost $8 million next year, doubling to $16 million in fiscal 2018. The income-tax cut passed with unanimous House Republican support, while Democrats united against it.
The budget bills were passed along party lines.
Howard Fischer adds, KidsCare out, no new K-12 funding as budget nears passage:
State lawmakers [put] the finishing touches late Tuesday on a $9.6 billion spending plan Tuesday after Republicans said there’s not enough for bigger boosts to K-12 education even as they refused to delay future corporate tax cuts.
The deal came together after legislative leaders agreed to rescind a proposal to cut public education — at least this year. The final deal demanded by moderate Republicans ensures there will be no loss of funding for schools that are losing students, small charter schools and district-run charter schools.
But there was a price for all that: Arizona will remain the only state without a functioning KidsCare program.
Earlier this year Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, got 47 of the 60 legislators to vote to restore health care for about 30,000 children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but are still below twice the federal poverty level. That is between about $27,700 and $40,200 a year for a family of three.
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Cobb said, though, the plan fell victim to simple politics: Adding KidsCare to the budget package would have doomed the entire plan, including things she wanted like K-12 funding and more money for road repair and construction.
“And I was not willing to give up all of the other things for this one issue,” she said.
Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, echoed her concerns. Campbell said restoring care for the children is important.
“But it would explode the budget agreement we made,” he said.
The Republic‘s Laurie Roberts points out the earlier House vote to restore KidsCare was just political theater. Arizona House kicks 30,000 kids in the teeth: “Turns out Senate President Andy Biggs must have been right when he said the only reason that House Republicans passed KidsCare in the first place was because they knew he’d kill it later. Well, congratulations to House Republicans — profiles in courage, one and all.”
With KidsCare off the table, that left the adequacy of K-12 funding to be the central point of Tuesday’s debate.
House Minority Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, said what the moderate Republicans got in the deal is hardly enough. He sought to restore $116 million cut from schools in prior years.
That drew opposition from Republicans who insisted the cash just isn’t there.
One involves corporate income taxes which were close to 7 percent before the 2010 law to phase in a series of cuts. The rate is now 5.5 percent; if nothing is done, it will drop next year to 4.9 percent.
Another phases in a new method that multi-state corporations can use to reduce how much of their income is attributable to — and taxable by — Arizona.
Friese figures delaying those cuts for five years would leave the state with $200 million more by 2019 than it will have if the remaining cuts take effect. The GOP majority rebuffed his proposal.
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The budget debate over K-12 funding has implications beyond the new budget. The ripple effects could determine the outcome of the May 17 special election for Proposition 123.
Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, said providing additional dollars for schools would be “an act of good faith supporting public education.”
She said constituents who have been asking questions about whether to support the measure want to be convinced that the $3.5 billion that would be provided over the next decade — about $300 a student per year — is not the end of the aid but really, as Gov. Doug Ducey has promised, just a “first step” to improving overall education funding. McCune Davis said failure to restore cuts now that the state has the money will do nothing to convince voters to approve the controversial measure.
Proposition 123 would end a 2010 lawsuit filed against the state for failing to comply with a voter-approved mandate to boost aid to schools each year to account for inflation. The Arizona Supreme Court already ruled lawmakers broke the law; what is still being litigated is how much is owed, both going forward and in missed aid.
But most of the money would come by making larger-than-normal withdrawals from an education trust fund, monies already set aside for K-12 funding.
“It’s kind of like stealing someone’s car and congratulating yourself for giving it back,” said Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix.
Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, said the failure of lawmakers to use some of the cash it has to restore education funding shows voters that Proposition 123 “is nothing but a bucket of empty and worthless promises.”
“If 123 does fail, it will be because a majority of Arizonans see through the smoke and mirrors of this false promise that has nothing behind it,” he continued. Wheeler said the refusal to add to school funding shows “that the legislature is not serious and Gov. Ducey is even less serious about funding K-12 education.”
And Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson, said the failure to boost funding will lead to “an erosion of trust” by voters who may turn around and defeat the ballot measure.
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Of [the $248 million added for K-12 education], though, $131 million is pure enrollment growth and inflation. And nearly $40 million involves the deal to ensure that schools with declining enrollment, small charter schools and school-district sponsored charter schools will not lose money they now have.
The GOP legislature did set up a fund of more than $100 million in state dollars to help privately run charter schools borrow money at lower interest rates. The fund would serve as a guarantee to lenders that if the school defaulted payments would continue while foreclosure proceedings commence. Private charters, prison operators benefit in budget.
This bill violates the “gift” clause in the Arizona Constitution. This is something of a conundrum for the “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute. They specialize in these gift clause cases. But they are also the driving force behind privatizing public education in Arizona. Of course, the Goldwater Institute is OK with being exposed for the hypocrites they are just as long as they get what they want from the legislature for their clients.
The budget deal gives universities $32 million after last year’s $99 million cut, but even that number is less than it appears. As The Republic’s Laurie Roberts explains:
Oh, there’s a $32 million for universities, which sounds pretty good until you realize that universities took at $99 million hit last year. And until you realize that only $13 million of that $32 million is slotted to be ongoing funding.
And until you realize that of that $13 million, $5 million is earmarked for three “economic freedom schools” started within the UA and ASU with seed money from the Charles Koch Foundation. The founding director of one of those schools, ASU’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, has called for eliminating public schools.
Who knows? Maybe he can take his share of public funds and convince our leaders to further weaken Arizona’s public schools.
For those of you keeping score at home, The Republic‘s E.J. Montini has the score: State budget scorecard – $5 million for billionaires; $0 for needy children.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “budgets are moral documents,” that budget priorities define our morality. Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature has enacted an amoral budget based upon the all consuming greed of the corporate Plutocrats whom they serve. This is a sad day in Arizona.