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Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding?

how did your legislators scoreEach year, the 90 members of our state legislature vote on dozens of bills that shape the education, health and safety of Arizona’s children and families. CAA believes that every lawmaker has the responsibility to vote for kids. And our legislators should be held accountable and measured on their performance.

That’s why we publish our report card on Arizona’s legislators, Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding?

During the legislative session, Children’s Action Alliance analyzed and took a stand on each of the six bills we include in this year’s report card, asking lawmakers to vote “yes” or “no” for kids. In this report card we tell you why each vote was important, how each legislator voted and key progress for kids during session.

Click here and find out Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding?

Tax Cuts Have Long Term Impact

The Arizona economy and state revenues still struggle for a full recovery from the Great Recession and the expiration of the temporary sales tax takes nearly $1 billion each year out of state dollars. State funding for child care, K-12 education, and assistance for poor children remains far below what it was in 2008. Yet lawmakers continue to add more tax cuts to a very long list of tax cuts passed since 1990.

In the final hours of this session, the legislature passed a number of tax cuts totaling a loss of more than $58 million to the state general fund. Governor Brewer vetoed four tax cut bills this session – two because they hit her desk when she was waiting for the bills on the budget and Medicaid restoration.

She vetoed HB 2439 after the legislative session ended. The bill would have required the Department of Revenue to annually adjust the individual income tax brackets to account for inflation, with an estimated annual loss of $11 million. Governor Brewer’s veto letter said these types of adjustments should not occur automatically but, instead, should be made by the Legislature “after careful consideration and in relation to other tax and expenditure decisions.”

She also vetoed HB 2342, which would have increased an existing refundable tax credit for research from $5 million to $15 million. In her veto letter, Governor Brewer pointed out that “….a refundable tax credit is designed as not just a reduction in a tax liability, but extends beyond any liability to draw on general fund dollars. Such expenditures of state taxpayer dollars deserve the highest level of scrutiny to determine their benefits to the overall state economy as well as their relative importance against other general fund obligations.”

In fact, most tax credits get little scrutiny in Arizona. While state spending is analyzed, debated, and voted on every year, tax credits continue indefinitely without another vote. Even when the legislative budget office finds no evidence of positive impact from a tax credit, there is rarely a bill introduced to amend or end it. It takes a two-thirds vote in both houses to reduce or eliminate a tax credit or tax cut once it is in place without an expiration date.

The tax cuts signed by Governor Brewer this year include instant depreciation for business property purchased before 2014, new tax credits for data centers, a corporate income tax cut for some private universities, and allowing more Arizonans to cut their state income taxes when they donate to an organization helping working poor families. In addition, tax cuts that were adopted in previous years continue to grow as additional cuts in tax rates phase in.

Click here to see a summary chart of the tax cuts that were signed and vetoed.

KidsCare gets second chance with federal funding to cover 60,000

Latest CPS data is concerning…

Latest reports from the Arizona Department of Economic Security continue to indicate the rising numbers of children in foster care and a system over-whelmed with children and families needing help. Children’s Action Alliance compiled the data and has prepared a series of charts to better analyze what the numbers mean for children in crisis. Here are some of the more concerning figures:

  • From March 2008 to September 2012, the number of reports requiring investigation grew 21% and reports of neglect increased 40%. 
  • A third of the child abuse and neglect reports received by CPS from July 2012 through December 2012 remain open for investigation as of June 2013.
  • As of May 2013, 14,787 children were in out-of-home care, the highest number in Arizona history.
  • The total number of children in out-of-home care rose 45% from December 2007 to December 2012 while the number of families receiving in-home services decreased. 
  • The 2012 annualized turnover rate for CPS Specialists was 28.6%.
  • Even with the new staffing provided by the legislature for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014, caseloads will remain above Arizona’s caseload standards. 

CAA continues to partner with Child Protective Services and community advocates to seek avenues for systems improvement. As we all need to keep diligent watch over the numbers, our greatest concern is for the safety of the children at risk.

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