Sunday, February 01, 2009

It must be nice for the lege's Republicans to have priorities...

...even if those priorities don't include the best interests of the people of Arizona...

Much has been written about the package of bills that the AZ lege passed and Jan Brewer, the newly-minted governor, signed into law to address the state's budget deficit.

I'll leave the observations to other writers, both wiser and more eloquent, on how damaging to Arizona's long term vitality that the attacks on healthcare, education, and infrastructure will be.

I'd say that the meat cleaver-wielding Republicans were indiscriminately attacking programs, but they knew *exactly* what they were going to decimate once Janet Napolitano left the Governor's office and ascended to her new job in D.C.

The drool was just flowing out of the Rep caucus rooms in the House and Senate buildings...

I will, however, cover some interesting details in the bills that were just signed by Jan Brewer. Here are a couple -

...In HB2001, the main budget cutting bill, there was an amendment added by the House Appropriations Committee led by Fountain Hills Republican John Kavanagh. In that amendment, $1.6 million of a $10 million dollar appropriation for GIITEM (Gang & Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission ) was earmarked to "the sheriff's office of a county with a population of more than two million persons for human smuggling and immigration enforcement."

If that's not clear to some of you, that provision is earmarked specifically for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio - Maricopa County is the only county in Arizona with more than 2 million residents. Hell, it's the only one with more than half that number.

Almost a month ago, Arpaio's fellow traveller on the nativist path, State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-National Alliance) promised to deliver money for Arpaio's anti-immigrant jihad in spite of the state's budget crisis.

And with the enthusiastic assistance of Pearce's good friend Kavanagh, Arpaio got his money while students all over the state face drastic cuts to their educations.

For the record, K-12 education and the state's universities took a nearly $300 million hit so that the likes of nativists Arpaio, Kavanagh, and Pearce can continue their witch hunts.

...HB2004 includes a provision that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) take and pass a drug test before receiving any funds.

Ummm, I must have missed the study that shows that the state's budget crisis is a result of bad decisions made by intoxicated poor people instead of rampaging ideologues drunk on power.

Maybe a provision mandating drug tests for legislators would be more effective.

Other budget reconciliation bills and summaries of their effects -

HB2002 (capital outlay) - the bill and its legislative summary
HB2003 (revenue) - the bill and its legislative summary
HB2005 (criminal justice) - the bill and its legislative summary
HB2006 (education) - the bill and its legislative summary

Anyway, this is just the beginning, as the bills passed and signed last week only impact the state's budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. The devastation to education, human services, and the state's employees will be worse in next year's budget with its projected deficit of $3 billion.

The scary part is that as bad as the state's revenue outlook appears, we can count on the Republicans to work to make it worse.

They've proposed at least six bills to decrease state revenue, including HB2361 (to raise the state's personal property tax exemption from $50k to $10 million), SCR1011 (TABOR, aka "the cripple government and government services permanently" Act), SB1007 and HB2073 (repeal of the state's equalization property tax, the revenue of which is reserved for education funding), SB1181 (repeal of the state's motor vehicle fuel tax, money reserved for the Arizona highway user revenue fund), and SB1324 (a move to cut corporate income tax rates by more than a third).

This is only the beginning; if the Republicans get their way, by the close of the 2010 election cycle Arizona government and public services will be limited to cops, courts, and corrections.

The AZ Rep's coverage of this year's budget patch is here; the Arizona Guardian's coverage is here.

David Safier at Blog for Arizona has been doing a great job of covering the budget crisis' impact on education; State Rep. Daniel Patterson offers his take on the budget patch here.

Another take:

Dave Wells, writing in the EV Trib, offers his view here.

My take:

In the interests of full disclosure, we should change AZ's state motto from "God Enriches" to "Republicans Impoverish".

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