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Kids Advocate: AZ Budget Deal Could Have Been Worse

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 By Doug RamseyContact
June 29, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. – A leading children's advocate says the tentative Arizona state budget agreement is not as bad as the earlier version from the state Republican leadership. But she says there are still large cuts that would impact the most vulnerable people in the state, the kids.

Dana Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance, says the budget expected to be voted on today by Arizona lawmakers is, overall, an improvement.

"The legislature, with the governor's leadership, certainly moved in the right direction on KidsCare health coverage for children and working families, and we're very pleased to see that the children's coverage will remain where it is today."

However, Naimark says, there are still extensive and harmful cuts to other services affecting children and families. She also believes that the budget, which deals with at a shortfall of at least three billion dollars, is shaky because many of its revenue assumptions are "fictional."

Those supporting the cuts say they're essential to deal with the state's huge deficit, but Naimark says the budget agreement includes risky and dangerous cuts to state programs that are vital in today's depressed economy.

"Those include cuts to funding for food banks, to emergency shelters, to services for homeless families, to the basic services that can support parents and keep families together."

Naimark says the budget agreement still includes cuts to human services at a time the state is already underfunded and understaffed because of budget cuts made in January.

"The Department of Economic Security laid off 159 case workers in our child protective services system, and keep in mind, this is a system that was already severely understaffed, by 20 percent or more."

The spending plan does provide for a November public vote on raising the state sales tax by a penny for three years. But the state could face a further revenue squeeze then, because another provision cuts income taxes when the sales tax ends.

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