Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
When you think of lobbyists in Arizona you’re bound to think of people in expensive shoes and haircuts peddling bills handwritten for the corporations that pay them. It’s true of a lot of them but there are also some valiant souls who go to the Capitol regularly to plead on behalf of the people in our state who don’t have piles of cash to influence legislators. One such person is Kristin Gwinn, executive director of Protecting Arizona’s Families Coalition (PAFCO), who testified before a Senate committee on Monday about the how their proposed budget does not come close to meeting the needs of abused and vulnerable children. She pulled no punches:
When questioned about this budget proposal in the last week, I have heard members make statements about living within our means, spending only what we can, and wishing they could do more. Child safety is NOT a luxury item we fund at any level we like. Children are either safe or they aren’t. If we don’t have enough money to keep our most fragile citizens safe, we need to find more money. Perhaps in the $450 million dollar rainy day fund that remained untouched during the worst recession Arizona has faced in decades, arguably one of the worst rainy days in Arizona’s history. What is it there for if not for a moment like this? We’ve moved well beyond rainy days and our child welfare system is now facing a Category 5 hurricane. I say again, child safety is not a luxury item.
I ask each of you to consider what would happen if I did in my own home what you are proposing to do here today. If CPS knocked on my door and I told them “I’d like to make my children safe, but I just don’t have the money. I promise it’s a priority and I’ll take care of it eventually, but I can’t do it today because there’s just not room for it in my budget.” If I did that, CPS and most other rational people would consider that a case of abuse or neglect. I didn’t do that, but you’re about to.
Of all the horrible things we’ve learned about Arizona’s child welfare system in the last few months, perhaps the most disturbing is the realization that the single greatest perpetrator of abuse and neglect on Arizona’s children is the Arizona State Legislature.
It needed to be said. Needless to say, of course, some of the GOP Senators took umbrage at Gwinn for telling the actual truth about what they are doing to children with this budget. Gwinn says she was grilled by some peeved Senators after she spoke and then there were Tweets:
$121 million of the amount of which Senator Ward speaks is federal funding. Some.
Man, that “half the country are a bunch of takers!” thing refuses to die, doesn’t it? Except it’s completely untrue in the states. The study Kristin linked to is from 2009 (I did a post about it a few years ago), but Arizona’s tax system has not gotten more progressive since then, when it was ranked the seventh most regressive state in the nation. The lowest quintile in Arizona pays over twice as much, as a percentage of income, as the top quintile in combined state and local taxes.
Kristin Gwinn’s description of GOP Senators being outraged at her comments in the committee hearing (here’s the video of the hearing) tracks with my own observation of Republican legislators on the floor during the SB1062 and recent budget votes: Democratic lawmakers would rise to make truthful comments about how SB1062 could be used to deny people service on the basis of race, gender, or religion, or on how the budget was awful for children. This would be met with outraged calls that the Democrats were out of order by the Republicans. How dare you say we want to discriminate against people?! How dare you say that we don’t care about children?! Didn’t matter that the bill they passed did allow discrimination or that the budget they want to pass would harm children. The Democrats said those things out loud in that chambers and the rules of the body, as arbitrarily interpreted by the majority, don’t allow that. Therefore those Democrat lawmakers had to apologize because reasons.
The cool thing for most of the rest of us is we don’t have to stifle ourselves like that. I promise you that no matter how politely or rudely you speak out against right wing nonsense, they’re going to act, indignantly, like you farted in church. So you should speak up. Kristin Gwinn does. I do. You should. It needs to be said, so say it!