Monday, July 06, 2009

"Kicking the can down the road"

That phrase is from Tim Schmaltz, CEO of PAFCO and an astute observer of all things lege.

And with that brief phrase, he summarized today's activities at the Arizona legislature.

While there *was* some good work done today, very good work in fact, it didn't address the state's long term budget issues. There weren't any real cuts enacted today, and neither did the lege address the revenue issue.

And both spending cuts and revenue increases (or at least stabilization - i.e. - no more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy during a budget deficit) are necessary to bring AZ out of the fiscal hole that it finds itself in.

Items listed on the "good" side of the ledger include funding of K-12 education at levels that protect eligibility for federal stimulus money and rules changes that keep AZ eligible for federal a federal Medicaid match. Schools will be able to open for the fall semester on schedule.

Items on the "bad" side of the ledger include increasing the deficit and putting off for a few more weeks that which should have been dealt with over the last six months.

While there is a *lot* to be happy with here (education is taken care of, and that's the largest part of the state's budget), the main problem still exists, and until that is addressed in a more permanent way, education and services will remain in jeopardy.

Some of the highlights of today's bills, taken from the "fact sheets" prepared by legislative staff for the legislators (HB2001/SB1013; HB2002/SB1016; HB2003/SB1014; HB2004/SB1015) -

[Education Appropriations]
Appropriates $3,677,068,200 from the state General Fund and $46,475,500 from the Permanent State School Fund to the Arizona Department of Education for basic state support of K-12 Education in FY 2009-10 as follows:
- Basic State Aid – $3,283,073,800
- Additional State Aid – $404,880,500
- Other State Aid to Districts – $983,900
- Arizona English Immersion Fund – 32,508,700
- Operating Lump Sum – $2,096,800

[K-12 BRB]
Increases the charter school Additional Assistance for FY 2009-10 as follows:
- For pupils in grades K-8, from $1,474.16 to $1,588.44.
- For pupils in grades 9-12, from $1,718.10 to $1,851.30.

- Prohibits Basic State Aid for the second year of kindergarten if a school district or charter school admits a child to kindergarten, after the effective date of this act, who has not reached the required age and readmits the child to kindergarten the following school year. Allows the school district or charter school to charge tuition for students who repeat.
- Specifies the Base Level (per-pupil funding) for FY 2009-10 at $3,267.72.
- Increases, by 2%, the Transportation Support Level per route mile formula for FY 2009-10
- Prohibits a school district, until October 1, 2009, from adjusting its Revenue Control Limit in FY 2009-10 for Actual Utility costs.
- Specifies that school districts do not have to submit an Excess Utilities Funding Plan for FY 2009-10.
- States that until October 1, 2009, for FY 2009-10, a school district that is eligible to budget for Career Ladder Programs shall not exceed the amount budgeted in FY 2008-09.
- Caps, until October 1, 2009, school district Desegregation budgets at the FY 2008-09 level.
- Reduces, until October 1, 2009, Basic State Aid Soft Capital budget capacity and budget limits for all school districts by $175,000,000 in FY 2009-10.
- For districts not eligible to receive Basic State Aid, the Soft Capital allocation is reduced by the amount that would be otherwise reduced if the districts were eligible.

[Health and welfare BRB]

Specifies the amounts counties shall contribute for the Arizona Long-term Care System (ALTCS) for FY 2009-10 totaling $190,467,500.
- States that if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) had not been passed, the amounts would have totaled $262,889,400.
- Modifies for FYs 2008-09 and 2009-10, the 50/50 split for reversions of excess appropriations in ALTCS to 62.2% counties and 37.8 state to comply with ARRA.
- Requires the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) to transfer Acute Care county savings due to ARRA provisions in FY 2009-09 to counties by December 31, 2009.
- Allows AHCCCS to spend federal monies drawn down by local or tribal spending to the extent that it would not reduce enhanced matching funds available pursuant to ARRA.
- Mandates that AHCCCS to transfer savings from the Proposition 204 – DES Eligibility line item FYs 2008-09 and 2009-10 to counties to comply with ARRA.

[Per diem bill]

- States that during the Forty-ninth Legislature, Third Special Session, legislators shall only receive per-diem payments for days that both houses of the Legislature convene and record attendance.
- Allows members to continue to receive interim per-diem when the member acts on a legislative matter. coverage of today's happenings here.


Mercurious said...

Thanks for all your great work on watching these proceedings. I've been watching this blog for a little while but haven't commented yet, but a piece of video has appeared in which Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) appears to believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and is thus arguing for support for uranium mining in the Grand Cannon. Seriously, just how stupid can people be?

Story Link

And people wonder why some don't value education. Congratulations Sen. Allen. You've now put us in running with Texas as a laughing stock of ignorance.

(h/t to Pharyngula)

cpmaz said...

Thanks for the compliment. It's nice to know my scribblings/ramblings are interesting to at least a few other folks.

Funny you mention that "6000 year old" bit. In the Senate Republican caucus meeting today, Jack Harper was talking with Sylvia Allen. He was griping that the Arizona Guardian (who posted the video first) was doing "opposition research" for the Democrats by finding and posting that video.

Apparently, he and Allen are such true believers (in whatever it is that they believe in) that they couldn't conceive of why anybody could be interested in Allen's statement, and could be interested for reasons other than partisan politics.

Sylvia Allen looks like she is the perfect replacement for former Senator Karen Johnson - civil to speak to in person, but a total wingnut.

Mercurious said...

I'm a science nut, so I watch a lot of science blogs, as evidence from Pharyngula. As bad as it seems here in AZ for education, it's a horrendous mess in Texas. Should read this article "McLeroy is down; could Texas possibly consider an even greater wackaloon to replace him?".
McLeroy is also a Young Earth Creationist, who was head of the Texas BOE. When Texas's english standards came up for review, they spent 2 1/2 years getting with experts and teachers to craft the best standards possible. Then 3 hours before a final vote on the standards, a whole new set are dropped in the boards lap and was told to vote on it. It still passed, and is bleeding mess. Their state lege just, barely, failed to confirm his reappointment so McLeroy is now out. So who does Perry nominate next? Dunbar, who thinks public education is "evil" and has home schooled her own children. Texas is important to the rest of the country on education, because they are such a large state that text book manufactures will sell the books that are ok in Tx in other states to reduce the cost of updating them to match their standards. Lowest common denominator tends to get the most published.

Zelph said...

Karen Johnson and Sylvia Allen also share a religion in common. Can you guess which one? To be fair, no all of them are kooks, but they have more than their share at the legislature. Oh, I'm sorry, was that politically incorrect? Right wingers are soooo touchy about political correctness.

Mercurious said...

To be fair Zelph, even the dems have a share of religious nutters out there. It's just their density is much lower here on the left. We also tend to have a larger share of the "new age" form of woowoo that is affecting many.

Zelph said...

I'm just concerned about the "Mormon agenda". And, unlike gays, they really do try to convert people.

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