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Arizona’s New Budget Is All Pain, No Gain

There’s nothing virtuous or smart about pain for pain’s sake. Unfortunately, the 2012 budget that Arizona’s legislature passed and Governor Brewer signed yesterday inflicts nothing but pain, taking an axe to state services that will harm families, businesses, and, ultimately, the state’s economy.

The budget:

  • cuts K-12 education funding by more than $180 million, on top of some $375 million in cuts in previous years;
  • cuts university funding by 23 percent, bringing the total reduction since 2008 to 50 percent;
  • cuts state funds for community colleges;
  • eliminates health care coverage for at least 130,000 poor adults;
  • continues a freeze on enrollment in the state’s health care program for low-income children, which has already denied coverage to an estimated 60,000 children;
  • eliminates child care assistance for 13,000 children and their families; and
  • shortens the lifetime limit for cash assistance to 24 months from 36 months.

Just a few weeks ago, this same legislature enacted a major set of tax cuts for corporations and others that will reduce revenues by $1.6 billion over the next seven years.  Those lost dollars would have made 2012 a little less painful for Arizonans.  And they’ll be sorely needed in future years to help Arizona fund education, health care, infrastructure, and other core public services.

Arizona has cut public services deeply over the last four years, and businesses as well as families are feeling the sting.  Executives of leading Arizona businesses recently echoed warnings by former Intel CEO Craig Barrett that the state’s education cuts are producing a less-qualified workforce and reducing prospects for economic growth.  “Quality education is extremely important to a place like Intel,” Barrett said.  “[The] education cutbacks don’t bode well for that.”

More immediately, The Arizona Republic, the state’s leading newspaper, explained in a strongly worded editorial that the deep budget cuts will cost Arizona tens of thousands of public- and private-sector jobs.  Cutting health programs, for example, jeopardizes the jobs of workers at hospitals, pharmacies, and hospital suppliers that serve Medicaid patients.

As The Arizona Republic stated, “There are lots of ways to balance a budget.  The Legislature picked one with tremendous potential damage for Arizona.”