Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, March 28, 2014

AZ Govt Budget -- wonder if Brewer will sign it; Mendez explains his opposition

To many, watching legislative debates can be tremendously dull. They certainly are not scripted by television producers wanting to keep viewers captivated. But in some ways, it's better reality TV than what passes off as reality on American television these days.

However, Speaker Andy Tobin, who is running for Congress this year, may have a sore arm from bending it so far to pat himself on the back claiming these budget bills are so great for Arizona. That claim, of course, is bullshit, which is also a fair way to describe some reality shows on broadcast television.

On the other hand, there were some gems from tonight's debate. One was state Rep. Juan Mendez' (D-LD26/Tempe) explanation of his vote in opposition to the "feed bill" (primary budget bill HB2703). A rough transcript of that explanation is posted below, along with additional detail on what Mendez wanted to see in the budget.

Too many people have shared their stories with me, too many people who soon might have to find some other means of health care after they find themselves at the end of their 5-year lifetime enrollment cap on AHCCCS, while still at the edges of so many other decisions, crucial and now alone as we vote for a budget that not only turns our back towards those in need but leaves us all with a deficit next year.
All but guaranteeing that the light at the end of our silo-ed Human Services is turned off as their budgets have been choked or bled while we recklessly neo-liberally sign blank check tax breaks trying to convince the public that there are "Job Creators" who sit on thrones blessing us with jobs. When we all know a healthy working class who can contribute to our economy with real demand is what creates jobs.
Rich people investing less taxes into our state does not create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small.
What does lead to more employment is a circle-of-life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers with healthcare and a living wage can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring.
A healthy consumer is far more of a job creator than some perverse selfish ivory tower removed from society ideology.
I ask you to think about your vote. Please do not toss cutbacks to insurance corporations who've already partnered with our state and cannot guarantee to bring more jobs than the ones they’re already bringing.
I ask that you envision our state and your role as something more than only limited to administering poverty and managing social discord so that neither interferes with corporate profits.
Because too many students from underfunded schools who will soon be playing Hunger Games for funding under the title Student Success have shared their frustration for the lack of investment in their potential and for the blindness that refuses to acknowledge that the new national geography of jobs is based on the locations which can turn out the most college educated workers.
States with a higher percentages of skilled workers offer high wages not just because they have many college educated residents and these residents earn high wages.
A worker’s education has an effect not just on her own salary but on the entire community around her. The investment in crucially preparing all of our students for success and not just those already succeeding changes our local economy in profound ways, affecting both the kinds of jobs available and the productivity of every worker who lives there, including those who do not choose higher education. 
The absence and uncertainty of investment in our community is what ultimately reduces the number of competitive industries which choose to do business with us. Which limits what we can offer to retain students after we invest in their education.
We must scrap this budget and put together a more respectful budget. 
Childcare Subsidy:
Funding for the childcare subsidy which will take many low-income working poor families off the waiting list and provide those families with subsidies for childcare.
Since 2008, the state has reduced spending on childcare subsidies by more than $70M.
The number of low income working poor families receiving subsidies has been reduced from 27,400 to 7,600 since 2004.
More than 400 childcare centers and regulated in-home childcare providers have closed since 2012.
Housing Trust Fund:
Funding for the Housing Trust Fund will provide for the development of affordable permanent and transitional rental housing units, homelessness prevention, aid for disaster-related housing needs, funding for the rehabilitation of existing units, and developing and preserving housing in rural Arizona and on tribal lands.
Dental Coverage under AHCCCS:
During the recession, dental programs that existed under AHCCCS were eliminated. One was the emergency dental program for the regular AHCCCS population. ER visits for oral pain and infection have skyrocketed in the last several years due to the elimination of the emergency dental program. Reinstating this benefit will shift these patients back to dental offices, which are equipped to provide appropriate treatment and services, and will reduce the cost shifting and treatment burdens on ERs and hospitals.
We must put together a budget that grows the kind of environment that businesses, which are competing for educated workers saddled with debt are proud to move to.
If we want someone to move their business to Arizona that business has to ask their workers to put their kids through our overwhelmingly underfunded schools.
If we want workers to move here for education or work they need to know they are protected with more than only 5 years of AHCCCS.
Please recognize how this budget limits our shared prosperity.
A budget you can force past us today means nothing if it undermines the conditions on which prosperity tomorrow depends. 
Ask yourself if your vote today is to ensure that our shared long term public goods are not undermined by short term private interests.
I understand the extreme right has been active in championing the pursuit of unbounded consumer freedoms, elevating consumer sovereignty above social goals and actively encouraging the expansion of the market into different areas of people’s lives.
Precisely what we’re told government isn’t supposed to do.
With a responsibility to protect jobs and to ensure stability ask yourself if your vote is securing our shared prosperity and not prioritizing the economic growth of one sector or the bleeding of another.
Instead of a state narrowly framed as the protector of market freedom in the unbounded pursuit of profit over people lets work on a meaningful vision of protecting our shared prosperity.
Our role of government should be to provide the capabilities for people to flourish within our ecological reality, our budget should reflect more vision.

Now, the budget bills go back to the Senate. Those that are not identical to the Senate version will be subject to a final vote in that chamber. The Arizona Republic quoted Sen. Majority Leader John McComish (R-LD18/Ahwatukee) as saying, "My belief is we'll swallow hard and vote it out."

1 comment:

  1. And after all of the anguished hand wringing by the GOP moderates -an oxymoron if I ever saw one- they all voted for a horribly inadequate budget.. Juan did a great job.