A Rainy Day Fund or a Fund for Tax Cuts?
The legislature adjourned last week, which means we likely won’t see them back in session until a new legislature takes office in January.
At the beginning of the session, the House and Senate Appropriations Chairmen — Representative John Kavanagh and Senator Don Shooter — set very low expectations, saying they were looking for a budget with no new funding, no new cuts, and no restorations. That sort of treading water describes the overall legislative session for kids. No vision for stronger families, no goal for healthier kids, no plan for more education success, no strategies for helping working families move up the ladder, and no commitment to improve child protection. Arizona taxpayers deserve better.
Thanks to all of you, we do have some things to celebrate from the session. Governor Brewer signed the bill we promoted, sponsored by Senator Rich Crandall, to clarify limited liability when schools open up their playgrounds and fields to the community after school hours. There is strong bipartisan support for this effort that will give more children safe places to run and play and be healthy. We look forward to working with schools to make this work for them.
Together we fought hard to get $42 million to DES simply to replace federal funds we are losing. That funding made it into the budget and supports the status quo.
Children’s Action Alliance supported one of the bills that improves Child Protective Services procedures, sponsored by Representative Katie Hobbs and Senator Linda Gray. This bill is now on the Governor’s desk; we expect her to sign it. The legislature also created a new investigations unit for the most serious criminal cases of abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, this unit won’t touch the vast majority of children in the CPS system. CPS remains overwhelmed with growing demands from the community and an infrastructure that is not equipped to keep up. As a result, thousands of cases go without the needed response and kids remain at risk.
Sometimes the best news is no news. We are all celebrating that there is no TABOR spending limit on the ballot in 2012!
House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Steve Pierce made a very big deal about keeping state spending low so they could put money aside this year for future needs. Yet, with profound inconsistency, they passed another large tax cut on their last day in session. On a party-line vote, the legislature cut capital gains taxes for the wealthiest 1% of Arizonans, cut business personal property taxes, and added and expanded other tax credits. The tax cuts phase in at a cost of $28 million in fiscal year 2014 — the first year the temporary sales tax is gone — up to $108 million in fiscal year 2019.
Sweeping money into a rainy day fund today to give it away in tax cuts tomorrow makes it even harder to invest in education, children’s health care, and Arizona families for our future.
So where do we go from here?
1. Stick with Children’s Action Alliance. We need you to be with us fighting for kids. Each year, we make a difference. We won’t give up. We’re already developing good ideas for next year — and getting ready to fight more bad ideas.
2. 2012 is an election year for all 90 seats in the state legislature. Get to know the candidates and choose wisely when you vote. Visit the election section of our website for regular updates.
3. Voters have the opportunity to step in where the legislature failed. Check out the Quality Education and Jobs initiative that renews the one cent sales tax for education, children’s health, family support, and state infrastructure. You can sign a petition today and vote YES in November.