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Budget Showdown Shaping Up Between Governor and Senate

March 23, 2011

PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer says state senators have gone too far in budget cuts to education and social services. Brewer says the Senate-passed budget "is not in the state's best interest."

K-12 education would lose $242 million, and Children's Action Alliance President Dana Naimark says the consequences would be devastating, starting with more costs for parents.

"School books and other supplies, field trips – parents are going to be hit, over and over again. Classes are going to be larger – and really, we're putting Arizona behind when we want to be very competitive for the 21st Century."

The budget still must be passed by the Arizona House, but before that happens, extensive negotiations are expected between the governor and legislators. Senate leaders contend the larger cuts are necessary because, as some of them have put it, "The state is broke."

But Naimark feels taxpayers have been double-crossed. She says they clearly told lawmakers they wanted education protected when they voted to hike the sales tax last fall.

"People voted very passionately and enthusiastically to raise their own taxes to sustain investments in K-12 education that voters overwhelmingly believe are critically important. And now, the Legislature is saying, 'Oh! Never mind, we're going to cut back on that.'"

The Senate-passed budget also eliminates funding for child-care assistance and other social programs, cuts that amount to an attack on children and the poor, in Naimark's view.

"We are literally pulling the rug out from under poor mothers and children. There are cuts in there that are just cold-hearted and will leave mothers and young kids hungry and homeless."

Gov. Brewer says the state budget should avoid shifting costs onto another level of government. But Naimark warns that's exactly what would happen under the Senate plan.

"There are hidden fees; there are costs passing down to local government. There are increases in university and community college tuition."

She says the governor has correctly identified a lot of what Naimark calls "reckless" decisions in the Senate-passed budget, which was made public only a few hours before voting began. Naimark points out that the hasty vote left no opportunity to respond to concerns of senators or the public.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ