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Have You Used the KIDS COUNT Data Center?

Children are Arizona’s greatest resource. Therefore, we must ensure that public policies and community institutions are protecting the investments made in kids across the state.

To make this happen, those that make decisions that affect the lives of children, those that tell the story of children and advocates who amplify the voices of our youth, should have easily-accessible data and statistics on the well-being of kids and their families. The KIDS COUNT Data Center provides this data for children living across Arizona and for children throughout the United States.

A new animated video shows how the KIDS COUNT Data Center equips state and federal legislators, child advocates, community activists and journalists with vital, customizable information about children and families in their state, county, city, congressional or school district, as well as for the nation.

The KIDS COUNT Data Center puts the power of data at its users fingertips so that individuals and communities are empowered to make a difference in the lives of children.

Watch the video and share with your friends and colleagues.

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Thank you Governor Ducey for supporting adoptions

gay dadsWe know that children can thrive when they have stable, loving families. In Arizona, the number of children living in temporary foster care continues to rise and children are staying longer before moving into permanent families. Connecting children with wonderful foster families and loving, adoptive parents should be high priorities for our state.

Children’s Action Alliance thanks Governor Ducey for his leadership in matching state policies to these priorities. The Governor recently vetoed HB 2296 which would have allowed County Attorneys to stop providing free legal services to prepare adoption petitions in uncontested cases.

The Governor also reversed the Department of Child Safety’s policy that prevented same sex legally married couples from gaining a license to provide foster care or to adopt foster children. We agree that with more than 17,000 children in foster care and just under 3,400 children waiting to be adopted, Arizona must focus on giving children the opportunity for loving families without any discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A New Opportunity for Children’s Health Care

boy in doctors office smallLast week, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a large majority – a bipartisan success story. Republican and Democratic members of Arizona’s Congressional delegation (except Congressman David Schweikert) voted in support of the bill, which was signed by President Obama on April 16th.

The measure helps Arizona kids have a better chance at a healthy life by extending federal funding for community health centers, parent mentoring, and other evidence-based health programs serving Arizona families.

The new federal law opens the door for Arizona to lift the enrollment freeze on KidsCare so that Arizona children have the same opportunities as children across the country to access affordable and high quality health coverage. The law renews federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years and preserves a feature that requires federal funds to pay virtually 100% of the cost for covering kids in Arizona.

Stay tuned for details on how Arizonans can work together with our leaders to lift the freeze on KidsCare and improve children’s health.

Some Good News about Foster Youth

340x100px_FaAZLogoFostering Advocates Arizona (FAAZ) is a CAA initiative focused on improving the outcomes of young adults who have experienced foster care. FAAZ is guided by young adults who have experienced foster care, with the goal of ensuring that young adults have the information, resources and support they need to transition to a new life. Only a few years old, and FAAZ is already engaging ambitious and successful young adults.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Frank Smith, FAAZ Youth Leadership Board member, has been selected as a 2015 Truman Scholarship Recipient! The Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive, merit-based award offered to college students who want to go to graduate school in preparation for a career in public service. Congratulations to Frank, a junior at Arizona State University who is currently studying Public Service and Public Policy, and serving as the Student Body President of ASU Downtown. He is an advocate for young adults in foster care and has worked passionately to improve access to post-secondary education. Frank is also a participant in the Opportunity Passport™ Program. He recently had his savings matched to purchase a new laptop that will certainly come in handy for graduate school. Read Frank’s story here.

In addition to Frank, a number of foster care alumni across the Valley are growing their leadership skills and chartering their own paths. Opportunity Passport™ is designed to help young people increase their financial literacy while also creating access to the critical assets needed for a successful transition. Checkout the Money Wise section of the FAAZ website to read more stories about young adults investing in their futures.

Happy Tax Day!

Whether you filed your tax return weeks ago, are sending it off sometime today, or have filed for an extension, you may be wondering if everyone else is paying their share of taxes. Often, this question comes up from people who worry that families with low incomes don’t owe any income taxes.

Households with incomes below $15,000 generally owe no state income tax in Arizona. But it may surprise you to know that when it comes to all taxes, these Arizona families pay the highest state and local taxes as a share of their income.

Combining all state and local taxes – income, sales, property, etc. – Arizona families with the lowest incomes pay $12.50 per $100 of income – more than twice what families with the highest incomes pay.

You may also be surprised that many corporations and higher income families owe little or no state income taxes.

3 Out of 4 Corporations Pay the Minimum State Income Tax

In 2011 (the latest data available), three out of four corporations that filed income taxes in Arizona had the minimum tax liability of $50. Many corporations significantly reduce or eliminate entirely their income tax bill through the use of tax credits. In 2011, corporations reduced their tax liability by $120 million through the use of tax credits and carried another $1 billion over to be used in future years.

Tax day pie chart

Households With Incomes Above $100,000 Can End Up Paying No State Income Taxes

Higher income households can eliminate their tax liability through the use of exemptions, deductions, and tax credits. A married couple filing a joint return can wipe out a tax bill of $3,700 through the use of five commonly available income tax credits.

Tax day bar chart

Sorry kids, there’s no room in the budget to protect you

Tell USDA You Want the Best Nutrition for Children in Child Care and Afterschool Programs

The Child and Adult Care Food Program is a major source of support for children enrolled in child care, Head Start, and after school programs. It ensures that over 3.5 million children have access to nutritious meals and snack. We are excited that in January USDA proposed healthier meal standards for the federal food programs serving child care and afterschool programs.

Now it is time to comment.

USDA wants to hear from you about what’s good in the new nutrition rule, what needs improvement, and strategies for success. Overall, we are pleased that the changes proposed are done in a manner that will lead healthier meals for children but for the most part not create an unreasonable burden on already overstretched child care programs and providers. We are linking to a model set of comments developed by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) that we urge you to submit to the USDA. The deadline to submit comments is Wednesday, April 15th.

Tell USDA what you think.
1. Download the comment letter here and submit it to USDA.
2. Submit your comments here.

Ducey Unbalances His Budget

???????????????????????????????????Governor Ducey and a majority of state lawmakers said they had to make dramatic cuts to K-12 and university education, child care, health care, and child safety because it is their top priority to put the budget back into so-called “structural balance.” But after the budget was adopted, those very same lawmakers voted for several more tax cuts that throw the budget out of balance and still leave children and education behind.

Last Thursday, Governor Ducey signed SB 1188. Known as “the IRS Conformity bill,” this new law increases income tax deductions for certain business investments from $25,000 to $500,000. The cost to the state’s general fund will be $31 million a year – starting now, even before the new fiscal year begins.

According to the legislature’s budget office (called JLBC), this tax cut means Arizona’s budget will remain structurally imbalanced at least through FY 18, with projected expenditures exceeding revenues. So, Governor Ducey has failed to deliver on his promise to balance the budget. And Ducey and the majority have clearly and deliberately altered the tax base to make it harder to invest in kids and education for years to come. How’s that for priorities?

Click here to see a list of new tax cuts passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Ducey and click here to see the legislative budget analysis about the unbalanced budget.

Report: 8 of 10 Arizona 4-Year-Olds Not in Publicly Funded Preschools

The 2015 Legislative Session is Over

The legislators have left the Capitol but the rest of us around the state have to deal with the damage. And there is a lot of damage.

In the name of fiscal responsibility, Governor Ducey and the majority of legislators voted for a budget with austere and damaging cuts to children, families, and education. Then, those same lawmakers voted YES on new special interest tax cuts that clearly and deliberately move the budget further away from structural balance.

sad girl computer smallBecause of this, Governor Ducey and state lawmakers have guaranteed we will face ongoing struggles to support education and child safety. Their fiscal recklessness puts us on a long-term path to build more prison cells while shutting more people out of a college education; to promote skyrocketing growth in state tax credits for private school students while shrinking dollars for students in the public schools; to grow tax breaks for rich corporations while cutting basic tools to help parents and children succeed.

Children lost while special interests won this session. Governor Ducey has labeled advocates and parents who criticize his budget as “special interests.” While he brags about balancing the budget on the backs of children and education, he made some special interests very happy with legislation he signed.

  • Insurance companies get a phase-down of their tax rate that will end up costing the general fund $35 million each year – how much of that will come out of K-12 education?
  • Apple Computer gets a new tax break for the promise of bringing 150 jobs to Mesa.
  • Religious congregations who lease space get a tax cut. The money they don’t pay in property taxes becomes an added cost to the state budget to pay for K-12 students.
  • Charter school owners may be able to use state tax dollars taken out of school classroom funding to get private loans at lower interest rates. (It’s still a mystery how this will work.)
  • Private prisons are set up to get more of our tax dollars and a steady stream of new prisoners – with no reforms to reduce recidivism or make communities safer.

Now is the time for Arizonans to come together to move our state toward a better budget and toward a path that leads to strong families and a prosperous economy. Despite the misguided priorities of so many state lawmakers, we have the power to make positive change. Here are examples of what we accomplished together this year in spite of the fiscal train wreck:

  • Thanks to the voices and leadership of foster youth, Governor Ducey signed a new law (HB 2022) that will allow more young adults who were in the foster care system to get a college education at our state universities without having to pay tuition.
  • With the determined leadership of Representative Debbie McCune Davis and a broad coalition to protect Arizona families, a new version of payday loans (HB 2611) got stopped in its tracks before it got a final vote.
  • Representative Kate Brophy McGee sponsored two successful bills to improve procedures and oversight of the Department of Child Safety (HB 2024 and HB 2164).

Click here to see the full list of 2015 Legislative Priorities for Children and Families. Thank you for working with CAA and I look forward to teaming up with you over the upcoming months to secure more progress for children and families.