Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Make budget-cutting transparent

Guest Writer
Guest Opinion


Our elected officials are engaged in the unenviable task of trying to balance the state’s budget in the face of massive revenue shortfalls; $1.6 billion must be trimmed from the current fiscal year alone.

As legislative leaders have correctly pointed out, the revenue hole will just get deeper the longer a budget is delayed.

This urgency should not be an excuse for policymakers to cut the public out of the process and make the real decisions behind closed doors.

We understand the need to move swiftly and decisively in a crisis.

We were profoundly disappointed, however, to see one legislator’s comment on the difficulty of the hearing process: “We don’t want to have 300 people sign up just to whine,” he said.

The pending budget cuts, which are almost certain to be made law, are of the doomsday variety:

Either directly, or as a result of “lump sum” reductions, terminally and chronically ill people may lose their health benefits, more battered women may be turned away from shelters, working poor women could lose their child care benefits and therefore their ability to work, and disabled people might lose the supports that allow them to live independently.

These are just a few examples of the potential impact of the budget decisions being made now.

The safety net that protects the poor, the ill and the vulnerable in Arizona has been constructed strand by strand over decades.

Our community has consistently supported protection for fragile populations, and real progress has been made on these life-and-death issues.

For example, for the first time ever, Arizona sheltered more battered women than it turned away last year.

Budget decisions that will throw uninsurable people off of state health care programs (something that could be a death sentence for an AIDS patient) and cuts that will force battered women to remain in lethal situations are certainly things worth talking about publicly.

Confronting policymakers with the consequences of their decisions is not whining. Putting real human faces alongside the red ink is not whining.

Public input is part and parcel of our cherished democratic process. Our public officials would do well to remember that.

Jodi Beckley Liggett is director of research and public policy for the Arizona Foundation for Women, www.azfoundationforwomen.org. E-mail: jliggett@azfoundationforwomen.org

Public scrutiny of budget process is essential

Budget decisions that will throw uninsurable people off of state health-care programs (something that could be a death sentence for an AIDS patient) are certainly things worth talking about publicly.

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