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New Group Proposes Budget Alternatives to Human Service Cuts

May 8, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – A new group wants to restore state funding for human and social services using a combination of stimulus money, accounting changes and tax increases. More than two dozen Arizona organizations have formed the Arizona Budget Coalition, which staged a State Capitol news conference Thursday to promote budget alternatives they say can avoid further cuts to human and social services.

Dana Naimark, president of the Children’s Action Alliance, says the Coalition's plan contains nearly $7-billion in revenue-generating strategies.

"No one will like everything on this menu and it’s not a package. But, it’s there to show that we do have choices. Despite our deficit, despite the tough economy, we do not have to destroy education, health care and human services for our future."

Some of the Coalition’s accounting proposals will push state spending into future years to deal with next year’s $3-billion shortfall. But, Naimark says, state revenues will eventually rebound.

"We know we need some short-term options to get through this very low point in the economic cycle, and we also know that many of those options are far better than the damage to families and our future that come from the alternative budget cuts."

Tim Schmaltz, coordinator for the Protect Arizona’s Family Coalition, says the plan will help the state avoid more cutbacks in child abuse prevention, child care subsidies and prescription assistance for the elderly and disabled.

"There are many more hopeful possibilities here than driving families into homelessness and emergency rooms by drastically limiting their hope, support and springboards to self-reliance and personal independence."

The options rely heavily on federal stimulus money and various tax increases. The budget introduced by Republican legislative leaders would make further cuts in education and state services, but has no tax hikes. The coalition says cutting more money from education will only delay economic recovery because Arizona public schools employ more people than the state’s top three private employers combined.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ