Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Will Arizona Republicans Finally Listen?

Last year, the Republicans at the Legislature negotiated the state budget behind closed doors with little input from the public or elected Democrats. When they passed that budget, they did so in the middle of the night. It was a deliberate process that allowed legislative leadership to pass a bad budget with minimal protest. The result was a budget wildly out of step with the priorities of most Arizonans.

That night, Arizona’s Republican leaders turned their back on their constituents, especially those Arizonans most in need of support: teachers, students and vulnerable children. They also cut funding for elections and we’ve seen the results of that choice.

The 2015 budget was a hard lesson in the importance of transparency. The question remains, however: did Republican legislators learn that lesson?

This year, after banning public testimony during the regular budget hearings, Republicans held a series of town halls on the state budget. At each of those meetings, Arizonans consistently voiced their priorities—they want more money for education and less money for private prisons. Legislative Democrats have the same priorities, and have proposed policies that would reinvest in Arizona’s innovative population, infrastructure, and abundant natural resources.

The state currently has about a billion dollars available to go to work for the people of Arizona, as well as higher-than-expected ongoing revenue. After the deep budget cuts last year, the House Appropriations Committee chairman said, “We will not have to enact any additional cuts for the next two fiscal years.” But the governor’s budget proposal this year reflected the same misplaced priorities that have characterized Republican budgets for years.

It is not yet clear whether legislative Republicans will listen to what Arizonans have been telling them. And, in fact, House leadership has said no budget discussions have even occurred. Arizonans deserve a state that will invest in them, and their state has the resources to do so. To see a summary of the Democrats’ full, five-step plan for moving Arizona forward, click here.

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