Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Guest opinion: GOP budget forums snub public input

Arizona’s budget crisis is not about politics, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals.

So said Michael Bidwell, chairman, at a recent forum of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

But that’s not what GPEC exhibited at its event.

The organization invited Gov. Jan Brewer; state Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria; and Speaker of the House Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, to give presentations of their budget plans to the business community and anyone else who wanted to listen, but not comment.

GPEC missed a valuable opportunity to inform the business community and others about the only comprehensive budget solution on the table in Arizona.

On March 30, we House Democrats announced our plan, which utilizes every federal stimulus dollar available to Arizona, makes strategic cuts, cleans up government waste by closing corporate tax loopholes and restores funding necessary to protect education.

It would get our state’s economy back on track, put people back to work and prepare kids for college and the work force.

Unlike the piecemeal ideas we have seen, such as a major cut to education here or sales tax increase there, House Democrats’ budget solution is detailed and comprehensive.

For example, the Department of Revenue was forced to lay off more than 300 employees, preventing the collection of more than $411 million in delinquent taxes. House Democrats’ solution restores $18 million for the department to increase staff to collect delinquent taxes, which will lessen the deficit burden.

We make a 2 percent cut for nearly all state agencies.

We continue the Education Equalization Tax, which pays for all-day kindergarten.

These are just a few of the items in our comprehensive budget solution. For more details, please go to www.strongerarizona.com.

Unfortunately, GPEC did not invite Democrats to give a presentation, and audience members were only allowed to view the budget from one side of the aisle.

This was a grave mistake because our plan produces details of how to balance the budget without deep cuts to jobs and education, the top two priorities for Arizonans.

The public was not allowed to comment at GPEC’s forum, and this, too, was a missed opportunity for GPEC, Brewer, Burns and Adams.

Democratic lawmakers have been traveling around the state since January and have held 15 budget forums so far to update the public on the budget and to hear the public’s questions, comments, concerns and ideas.

Brewer and our Republican colleagues have not yet held a public budget forum to listen to the community’s concerns.

Bidwell was right when he said this is not a partisan issue. We must work together in a bipartisan way, but that won’t happen if you don’t invite the other side.

Reps. David Lujan (dlujan@azleg.gov) and Kyrsten Sinema (ksinema@azleg.gov) serve District 15 in Phoenix: Lujan is the House Democratic leader and Sinema is assistant leader. House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell (chcampbell@azleg.gov) represents District 14 in Phoenix.

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