Saturday, March 06, 2010

Special Session #7 on tap for Monday

The Governor has called for a 7th Special Session of the 49th Arizona Legislature to address the state's current budget deficit (~$700 million) and to formulate a budget for next year.

According to the AZRep article on the matter, the basic framework of the package worked out among the Rs in the lege and the Governor's office is the budget proposal she unveiled in January.

The one that includes imposing a 5% pay cut on state employees (well, those that don't get laid off), closing the state's Juvenile Corrections department, shutting down KidsCare, and forcing more than 300,000 patients off of Medicaid.

Those cuts, as horrible as they are, are expected to be dwarfed by massive cuts to K-12 education.

Also, according to the Rep article, R legislators have responded to fiscal concerns expressed by the counties, who will assume responsibility for juvenile corrections, by telling the counties to raise their property tax rates.

Apparently their oath of fealty to Grover Norquist allows them to compel others to raise taxes, so long as they don't do it themselves.

And things will be that good only if voters approve the sales tax increase in May; if not, the Rs have prepared a "Plan B" containing even more severe cuts.

Thus far, nothing has been posted on the lege's website and at this point, nothing should be expected before Monday.

The reasons for the early work on next year's budget appear to be two-fold (normally, work on this stuff doesn't ramp up until late May or early June) -

1. Many of the proposed budget cuts are based on ignoring voter mandates. Expect a plethora of lawsuits to be filed the moment the Governor puts pen to paper to sign this stuff into law. An early start on the budget means an early resolution to any legal actions arising from same.

2. It's an election year. The Rs would rather spend June and July campaigning for reelection than fussing over the budget.

Even though the jobs they want to keep are supposed to be *all* about crafting a workable budget for the state.

Note: The Ds would rather be out campaigning in June and July, too, but they would rather be campaigning on "we passed the best budget possible" while the Rs would rather campaign on "we* didn't raise your taxes."

* = "Just don't ask us about what we are forcing counties, municipalities, and school districts to do."

Time to get ready for the Dean vs. Rove debate. Later...

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