Kavanagh: Put First Things First second (again)

by David Safier

AZ Republicans are well known for balancing the budget on the backs of children. Starting with a near-bottom education funding per child in the country, they cut 21% more over the past few years — the highest cuts in the nation, naturally. Funding went back up a bit recently. Now it's only a 17% cut because the courts forced them to put back some of the money they were under legal obligation to include to account for inflation (and of course, they're fighting the ruling).

Now Rep John Kavanagh wants to protect children on the backs of children. He proposes taking 25% from First Things First which funds the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board and give it to CPS to help it take care of its 6,000 case backlog and other problems. That comes to $45 million a year.

How nice of him to be generous with funds from a program Republicans love to hate. They tried to sweep funds from First Things First in 2009. The AZ Supreme Court nixed the move unanimously. Then they tried to repeal First Things First funding by ballot measure in 2010, only to have it voted down 70%-30%.

Here's an idea, Republicans. Stop starving the budget. Create some reasonable tax hikes on people and businesses that can afford it (taxpayers are shouldering a larger portion of taxes now, with businesses, including out-of-state corporations, paying less) and create a budget that gives our children what responsible adults are always supposed to give children: a helping hand.

Maybe CPS should consider taking funding for children away from the legislature and put it in more responsible hands.

30 thoughts on “Kavanagh: Put First Things First second (again)”

  1. Of course it is. This is where the hard part comes, so “that’s all for this series of posts.” I get it. You got it wrong though…low taxes in and of themselves don’t create jobs…they never have! What creates jobs, is consumer demand for a product. You really do need to get away from that same old dis-proven mindset. Is this the part where we all see that facts don’t matter?


  2. I believe low taxes create jobs but I am not supportive of targeted tax breaks.

    That’s all for this series of posts.

  3. I agree Cheri. John, I’m glad you’re willing to step into the lion’s den now and then and engage in an honest give and take. We all gain from it. I’m not quite willing to give you a tip of the hat, but you deserve a respectful nod of the head.

  4. Absolutely…but it IS what he’s supposed to do:) Even still, as much as we don’t agree, I’m glad that he comes here and engages.

  5. Well, so glad to see that you want to take a more pragmatic approach…we’ll see how that works out. By the way, I’m not putting words in your mouth. You DID just say this:

    Regarding the tax increase, I too would oppose it. But YOU need to address the reality of the situation. Money is needed for these ancillary social programs for CPS kids and families. The money has to come from somewhere and the somewhere will not be a tax increase.

    Those are your exact words. I’m asking you to address the tax breaks for business/ corporations as a means to funding CPS properly, not rob Peter to pay Paul. You need to speak to me about why you think that corporations are entitled to massive tax breaks. Money doesn’t fall out of the sky, yet these corps use state resources, schools, water, labor,etc…and are not returning an investment to Arizonians.This should NOT be considered a tax increase by any stretch of the imagination…as I said before, it is fair accounting for corps that do business in this state. There are no free rides, so why do you insist on corporate welfare over the needs of people that actually DO pay their taxes and expect services for their tax dollars?

  6. Wow, 7 comments from a state legislator to the same blog post. Is that a record? (I’m kidding. I actually like it that you take the time to do this, even if I don’t agree with you)

  7. I cannot quote a figure because I have not heard from CPS or the governor on how much is needed. Also keep in mind that CPS does need money but that is only part of the problem. The agency has operational issues too.

    Prioritizing is not robbing anyone. It is budgeting. I think you know that.

    Finally, I see that you chose door number two, which is to wage a political and ideological battle with the Republicans, which is an acceptable option. However, it does not make you part of the solution. It would were the political scales nearly balanced in Arizona but they are not. In fact, owing to it being a midterm election year and owing to President Obama’s drop in popularity, Rs will probably pick up seats in the state legislature. Thus, your role will be meaningless in the short run. In the long run, who knows.

  8. You are putting words in my mouth and surrounding them with talking points, which accomplishes nothing other than making yourself feel good.

    Also, didn’t you read the part of my post that said, “And while I am open to getting rid of some of the “picking winers and losers” tax credits we have passed, I recognize that that too will not happen, so I look for the doable.”

  9. Mr. Kavanagh, please just put the tax hike to the voters. Repubs in the legislature can’t handle the job.

  10. To clarify one thing I said about the budget: the current budget is actually a compromise bill uniting Brewer, the Democrats and enough Republicans to form a majority. I would have voted for that even though the budget is deeply flawed because it’s the best that could be done. But you’re asking me to accept your version of reality and live with it. Sitting here in front of my computer, I can be more effective pointing out how unacceptable your version of reality is and conjecturing on what a better, reasonable reality would look like.

  11. You’re right, I didn’t read your comments carefully enough to focus on your statement that you would fund the other increases from the general fund. My error. However, while you have an exact dollar figure on how much you want to take from FTF, you don’t put any figures behind your increases from the general fund. It would be helpful to know how much you think needs to be added and, if the budget is basically a zero sum game, where the extra funding would come from. Without that information, it’s pretty much empty rhetoric.

    While you didn’t exactly say whether you want to defund FTF, you did prioritize it as lower than the CPS needs. That still sounds to me like robbing Peter’s children to pay for Paul’s children.

    Asking me to “address the reality of the situation” is a bit like congressional Republicans asking Democrats to compromise by getting nothing in return for giving up something. The state majority party has created a “moral document” — that is, its budget — which I consider to be immoral, especially in the way it treats children and others who most need government’s help. If I were in the legislature, I imagine I’d be forced to suck it up on some occasions and vote for bad bills that could be worse, but as someone analyzing the situation from the outside, I want to point out how deeply Republicans have failed the people of Arizona, hoping that enough of you who are sensible will genuinely compromise with Democrats — that is, give and take — and enough Democrats will be elected in the future that they can put more pressure on the legislature to act reasonably and morally.

  12. Mr Kavanagh is telling everyone that he APPROVES OF CORPORATE WELFARE, but not the welfare of individuals. When he (and others) show who they really are, pay attention.


    most states tax businesses because, like individuals, companies use public services.

    They depend on schools for an educated workforce. They receive law enforcement protection. Roads and bridges, airports and water systems enable commerce. Businesses depend on courts to enforce contracts and resolve disputes.

    But the share of taxes that businesses pay is lower than it was decades ago. The nation competes in a tougher global economy and states compete with each other. The most profitable corporations pay a 35 percent federal tax rate, lower than in the mid-1980s but still one of the highest among industrialized nations.

    Many companies avoid paying the top rates by using deductions, credits and various loopholes to whittle away tax bills. In some years, major companies pay little or no federal income taxes. Because most state tax forms derive from the federal one, that often means they pay little in state tax as well. A recent study by an advocacy group found that 30 corporations paid no federal taxes from 2008 to 2010. Among them were General Electric, Honeywell International, Boeing, Verizon Communications and Wells Fargo.

    Arizona’s corporate income tax rate is set to fall by 30 percent from 2014 to 2017 and could end up one of the lowest in the nation. The decrease will save businesses an estimated $270 million in taxes over the four years.

    Make sure these companies pay their fair share first, not just the token amount they do now…that would be a start to a serious conversation on how to fix this problem.This isn’t RAISING taxes, this is just assuring that corporations are paying taxes at ALL, in the state they do business in, AZ. These are the real takers, and all of you that “ignore” this are their enablers. Fix this, and you’ve started to address the problem in earnest.

  13. Excellent points here, David.In fact, you’re right on the money with ALL of this. I told you he would poke his head in here and start doing the dance…This problem is one of the legislatures own making though…I think they were just all hoping that it didn’t blow up like this. I don’t mean to infer that they WANTED this to happen, I’m certain they didn’t, but the truth of the matter is that since their priorities are all out of wack to begin with, putting businesses and corporations before people, this is what you get. If you refuse to raise taxes and STILL haven’t figured out that trickle down NEVER trickles down, and you sign on to do the bidding of corporations and special interests over the people (as nearly the entire AZ leg has…ALEC, anyone?)

    The truth becomes a little more clear when you see that the cuts to CPS, imposed by this legislature over the last several years, has lead to this. These people are overworked, underpaid, stressed out…the caseworkers, the lawyers, everyone. So this is what happens.


    While Arizona’s child-welfare system never was ideal, before the recession we taxpayers paid for services that helped keep children out of the CPS system. In 2009, as state tax revenues were dwindling, the Legislature slashed funding in key areas:

    • Parental training, counseling and other preventative services for families;

    • Substance abuse treatment services for parents of vulnerable kids;

    • Child-care subsidies for working parents;

    • Temporary cash assistance for needy families.

    This funding has not been restored.

    So for them to feign surprise on what their actions have brought on, is bogus. If they cared about children, they would make sure that public education from K-1 through college was well funded and well rounded, because education is the best investment we can make in our children. If they cared about children,unemployment benefits and SNAP would be extended without a fight, understanding that food and a roof aren’t luxuries and that these effect children, the elderly and veterans the most. How do you NOT get afraid and angry about food and shelter being questioned?!If they actually cared about children, then healthcare battles like we still see wouldn’t be waged, because all of us need healthcare! It’s a right, not a privilege for the few. Making sure that children can grow up strong and healthy benefits ALL of us.

    But as usual,they seem to only address these issues AFTER THE FACT, not choosing to spend the money/time/efforts to try and prevent this in the first place.We end up spending more of everything to correct the incompetence…and in this case, in this tragic case, the children have paid the highest price for the incompetence of the adults who’s job it is to make sure they stay safe.

    Republicans won’t vote to increase taxes to address this problem. They will give free rides to corporations in AZ, allowing them to not pay their fair share,as they use the resources and cheap labor that they have enabled…all while saying “sorry” with a straight face to the children and families this has affected. Round and round and round we go….it won’t be fixed because they will never allow it to be fixed.

  14. Why do you refuse to acknowledge that I intend to take care of the understaffing that contributed to the 6,000 uninvestigated calls? I said three times that I intend to increase CPS’s general fund appropriation. Are you so partisan and ideological that you cannot bring yourself to admit that a Republican is willing to increase social service spending?

    Regarding the tax increase, I too would oppose it. But YOU need to address the reality of the situation. Money is needed for these ancillary social programs for CPS kids and families. The money has to come from somewhere and the somewhere will not be a tax increase. FTF has a lot of money and I think some of it would be better spent on children and families under CPS supervision. Therefore, I propose diverting 25% of FTF taxpayer funding SO LONG AS THE VOTERS APPROVE. It is a matter of which needs are greater and I think CPS kids have greater needs. And while I am open to getting rid of some of the “picking winers and losers” tax credits we have passed, I recognize that that too will not happen, so I look for the doable. What do you look for and I hope it is more than just political jousting?

  15. CPS has a scandalous problem on its hands which needs to be addressed and corrected, but as you say, your bill is not designed to address the problem. So your plan to divert First Things First money to CPS programs is a completely separate issue. To me, that’s akin to seeing a story in the paper about a car and driver disappearing into a huge pothole and you saying, “Let’s take money from highway patrol funds to build a new freeway.” What about that pothole the size of Patagonia Lake? “Oh, my bill doesn’t address that.”

    Your statement about the problems with a tax increase is disingenuous. The reason a tax increase won’t pass is because Republicans won’t vote for it. That’s my point, Republicans won’t vote for a tax increase, and in the case of the sales tax increase for education, most Republicans actively worked against it. So it’s a problem based in the Republican “No new taxes/Cut existing taxes” ideology. If you will say you support raising taxes to increase funding for CPS, I will tip my hat to you. But if you won’t, then you’re part of the problem, and you can’t hide behind other Republicans’ unwillingness to increase state funding by increasing taxes.

    I’ll also give you a tip of the hat if you’ll say you support the current First Things First funding priorities and you would take away $45 million with a heavy heart. That would make you a Republican exception, since your party has tried to defund the program for years.

  16. Regarding your question, “How would the money you want to redirect help deal with the current 6,000 case backlog? ” It would not and is not designed to do so.

    In my first post I thought I addressed that issue, when I said, “None of this money will be used to fund CPS enforcement, which will get another increase this session from the general fund.” I then re-stated that point in my second post, when I said, “I would fund items 2 and 3 from the general fund.” Note that items 2 and 3 were:

    2. Increase Child Protective Services (CPS) staffing, training, compensation, supervision, and resources to bring caseloads down and give dedicated caseworkers the chance to succeed.

    3. Repair CPS systems to keep children safe.

    If the misunderstanding is about not defining the term “general fund,” then it is the money that the legislature appropriates each year as opposed to monies derived from the federal government and other sources not controlled by the legislature. I hope that that clears up the misunderstanding.

    You are also correct in your assessment that I am doing this because other funds are not available in this amount (about $45 million per year) and a tax increase is not going to pass because it needs a 2/3 vote. Also keep in mind that the voters just nixed a tax increase for education, so realistically, this is probably the best way to fund these CPS children and family social service needs.

  17. I agree with David. This is an essential state function and should have an ongoing, dedicated revenue source, not dollars diverted from another program.. CPS should have enough staff to fulfill all their functions.

  18. This brings me back to my original question. How would the money you want to redirect help deal with the current 6,000 case backlog? That’s the immediate problem. The Children’s Action Alliance recommendations are good, but they’re about prevention, which is a different issue.

    And it makes me wonder why you think the best way to implement the recommendations is by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Actually, I know the answer. Budgeting is a zero sum game, or a minus sum game, to Republican legislators. No need is so pressing that it dictates more funding. So your ballot initiative would be a way to cut First Things First funds — or, to put it another way, move them away from their current intent (a form of sweeping). To me, that sounds more opportunistic than altruistic. I still think you want to pay for protection of children by taking away other services from children, just like the current AZ budget is balanced on the backs of children.

  19. First of all, I am not attempting to overturn the will of the voters. My bill will be a referral to the ballot that will allow the voters to redirect the money that they originally directed.

    Second, I am talking about the types of programs that the Children’s Action Alliance is pushing based upon their public gatherings. I have copied their six recommendations below. My proposal would fund items 1, 4, 5 and 6. I would fund items 2 and 3 from the general fund.

    CAA Proposals:

    1. Reinvest in prevention and community support, so fewer families ever reach the breaking point. Child care assistance, mental health services and professional mentoring for struggling parents would go a long way to preventing abuse and neglect and reducing the overwhelming workload on CPS.

    2. Increase Child Protective Services (CPS) staffing, training, compensation, supervision, and resources to bring caseloads down and give dedicated caseworkers the chance to succeed.

    3. Repair CPS systems to keep children safe.

    4. Build real partnerships with foster families, grandparents and other relatives caring for children.

    5. Build partnerships with community-based agencies to help children recover and build successful lives. Today, we’re not making good use of many of these assets.

    6. Use evidence-based strategies that work to give neglected children safe and healthy families. Many overwhelmed parents who have committed no crime but have crossed the line into neglect can get back on track so that children can stay safely in their own families.

  20. “Alters First Things First priorities a bit”? According to the article, you’re proposing to take $45 million a year from its current intended purpose and have it serve a different purpose. No matter what you call it or whether First Things First administers the money, it sounds like you want to take money away from what Arizonans voted for.

    I’m trying to read the meaning behind your coded language. “Fund educational and support services for children under the supervision of CPS, their families and foster families”? That doesn’t sound like it would deal with the current 6,000 case backlog at all, which is the problem that brought renewed attention to CPS and desperately needs to be addressed. It sounds suspiciously like giving more “school choice” to children on the CPS caseload, which sounds like vouchers. I may not have that right. Can you explain what you mean by funding educational and support services and how that will take care of the 6,000 case backlog?

  21. For the record, my proposal would only fund educational and support services for children under the supervision of CPS, their families and foster families. None of this money will be used to fund CPS enforcement, which will get another increase this session from the general fund. I will also include a non-supplanting clause. This simply alters First Things First priorities a bit and expands the scope of services for this designated population. First Things First will still administer the money.

  22. Can’t wait till Mr Kavanagh comes here and does his dance…you know they one defending this kind of malarkey! Bet if we had a ballot that didn’t discern one party from another, and people had to actually do the research on candidates…that people like Kavanagh wouldn’t last too long. In the mean time, folks seem to be voting against their own best interests and the best interest of the state….the little cabal of TB nutjobs that overflow the state legislature needs to be replaced. ASAP.

  23. You did see that the State of Idaho took over a CCA prison after years of mismanagement and staff and cost squeezing. I am sure its would Never happen here, with Chuckieboy in Brewer’s ear.

  24. I suggest taking funds away from CCA guarantees and paying for CPS. Or getting rid of the next Alt-fuels revenue mess, the corporate tax credit for donations to rich private schools. Better Yet get rid of all donations tax credits and fund public schools properly.

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