Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Republicans' wrong-track budget plan includes massive cuts to education, denies children access to health care

By Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic

Lawmakers are poised to vote this week on a state budget that would eliminate health-care coverage for 47,000 children, remove 310,000 Arizonans from the state's Medicaid program and shift juvenile corrections to the counties.

And that's the kinder, gentler version of the fiscal 2011 budget.

Lawmakers based the plan on the assumption that voters will approve a temporary 1-cent-per-dollar increase in the state sales tax on May 18. If they don't, an alternative plan released Monday would cut an additional $918 million from the budget, with education - from K-12 to universities - absorbing 60 percent of the amount.

Residents will get their only chance to comment on the $8.9 billion budget and its myriad spending cuts in hearings today They start at 9:30 a.m. The budget has been worked out behind closed doors, with no public testimony and no input this year from agency directors. Lawmakers are hoping to wrap up work this week, although it was unclear whether they had the votes.

The budget tackles two budget years at once, erasing a $700 million deficit in this year's budget, as well as a $2.6 billion deficit for fiscal 2011.

The budget is an agreement between Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican legislative leadership; Democrats rejected invitations to submit their own budget, saying they wanted to be part of bipartisan talks.

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