Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Arizona Daily Star's series continues today with Rep. Patricia Fleming (D-LD25). Formatted for transcript format. Rep. Patricia Fleming, D, District 25
Rep. Patricia Fleming, D-LD25
Committees: Military Affairs and Public Safety; Natural Resources and Rural Affairs
The Arizona Daily Star asked the following questions of each lawmaker:
1) Lawmakers have discretion over only 37 percent of K-12 education. School districts and universities have already taken millions in budget cuts, which affects everything from the economy to demands on government programs.
Should lawmakers continue to cut money to education? What, specifically, would you do?
A: It's simple: We need quality education to attract successful businesses to our state. Without a good education system, we can't provide the environment for businesses and jobs. Currently, Arizona ranks last in the nation for education funding. It's only going to get worse. Gov. Jan Brewer is proposing a $750 million cut to education. She wants to cut gifted programs for Arizona's brightest and the building-renewal fund that protects against things like roof collapses, which happened to three Arizona schools last year. She also wants to eliminate all-day kindergarten. This is on top of the largest cut to education in the history of the state that Brewer made last year. The fact is, we need businesses and jobs to get our state on the right track and to do that, we need education.
2) The governor's budget includes $37 million in cuts to services for the seriously mentally ill and the elimination of KidsCare, for a savings of $23 million. It also seeks to ask voters to drop 310,500 people from Medicaid by narrowing the eligibility rules.
That savings would be $382 million. Do you support these cuts? If not, how would you cover that $442 million budget gap?
A: Arizonans saw this week that Gov. Jan Brewer released a plan to leave close to 400,000 kids, adults and seniors without any form of health care. That means fewer people will seek preventive care and everyone will see even longer wait times in the emergency rooms.
People who need transplants in order to live won't be able to get them. People who need things like communication devices to talk and wheelchairs to move won't be able to have them.
It also means that those who have serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia won't be able to get the care they need. Seriously mentally ill people without treatment get even more ill – they can hurt themselves or even others. Gov. Brewer's plan to rob health care from even more kids and seniors during tough times just pushes Arizona further down the wrong track.
To get Arizona on the right track, we need to make cuts to wasteful, non-essential services, close tax loopholes, use federal stimulus dollars and implement tough immigration reform.
3) What is your priority for budget cuts? What, specifically, would you cut first, and why?
A: First of all, we've already cut $1 billion, and we can't cut our way out of this budget crisis – it is just too big. We need a balanced-budget proposal that cuts wasteful non-essential services, closes tax loopholes, uses federal stimulus dollars and implements tough immigration reform. I understand a negotiated solution involves cuts, and I am not ideologically attached to one cut or closing one loophole, but what I do want to see is a comprehensive solution. The best way to do this is through five- party talks (House and Senate Demo-crats and Republicans) where we discuss revenue and cuts together.
4) What kind of revenue increases do you support?
A: It's time to close unfair tax loopholes and make sure big corporations and the rich pay their fair share. It makes no sense that country club memberships and spa treatments aren't subject to sales tax, while middle-class families pay sales tax on clothes and school supplies.
Currently, big corporations receive thousands of dollars in accounting credits for filing their taxes, while most middle-class families pay an accountant to do their taxes. Eliminating this tax loophole would save the state millions.
The majority of lawmakers also cut funding to the Department of Revenue, resulting in cuts to staffers who go after tax cheats. Arizona now is losing $220 million in collections and is set to lose a projected $300 million more. It makes no sense to cut staff from the Department of Revenue when our state is in debt.
We need to close these unfair tax loopholes that burden middle-class families and make sure big corporations and the rich pay their fair share.